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Rockhurst High School is a private, Roman Catholic, Jesuit, all-boys, preparatory school in Kansas City, Missouri. More than 900 students in grades 9 to 12 are engaged in a rigorous curriculum that offers twenty Advanced Placement (AP) courses. While dedicated to academics, the school also boosts a winning sports program and a variety of co-curricular performing arts opportunities.
Established in 1910, life at ‘The Rock’ as it is affectionately known has been described as “Work Hard. Play Hard. Pray Hard.” That spirit was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when school leaders were early to adopt policies and protocols that would ensure the health and well-being of students and faculty. The school closed for one month at the height of the pandemic, but they were determined to reconvene as soon as possible.
To communicate with parents and students, Rockhurst published their School Reopening and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Plan 2000-2021. The 28-page booklet went into detail regarding daily temperature screening, face coverings, hand hygiene, cleaning procedures, and their approach to high-risk activities (band, choir, athletics) and ventilation (HVAC systems and filtration).
Director of Facility Management, John Degraffenreid, says Rockhurst is a pacesetter for the community. To that end, they looked to the latest science to help them mitigate any viral spread. Their research identified the efficacy of HEPA filtration and UVC light and led them to Rensair air purifiers.
Degraffenreid, who is tasked with the safety of the campus facility, was eager to place Rensair air purifiers where students gathered in older sections of the school that required better ventilation.
One Rensair unit was placed in the sports locker room and the coaches were very pleased. Besides cleaning the air of viral contaminants, the coaches reported Rensair eliminated all the ‘funky’ old locker room smells. “It was immediately clear that Rensair had a positive effect on our environment, in fact the air actually felt different,” he says. Once Degraffenreid saw how effective Rensair was, he advocated for the purchase of additional units so they could be placed throughout the school.
In the August 2022 report, Fact Sheet: Back to School 2022: Giving Every School the Tools to Prevent COVID-19 Spread and Stay Safely Open All Year Long, the White House outlined their recommendations and strategies for a safe school environment. The President’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides schools with unprecedented resources and guidance so they can implement these strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The report says educational facilities should use COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as a first line of defense, provide access to COVID-19 testing at schools for early detection, and improve air quality across America’s school buildings.
Multiple federal agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control and Protection) have initiated programs to assist schools in meeting these challenges. The Administration is also working with organizations, like the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), that can provide expert guidance and technical support to help make indoor air quality improvements for school easier to understand and implement.
Degraffenreid says Rockhurst realized that improving school air quality was supported by the Administration, so they started researching funding options to help the school purchase 30 Rensair units.
Through the Department of Education they found the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, 2021 provides funds for the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public School (EANS) program. This program, working through the ARP, provides funds for non-public schools to make improvements related to COVID-19 mitigation. The application process required some patience, but Degraffenreid is delighted that funding came through and Rockhurst High School now has 30 Rensair air purifiers spread throughout the school.
“We have Rensair in key positions,” says Degraffenreid. “They are in the locker rooms, in the trainer’s office, as well as in the dining commons and other public spaces.” An immunocompromised teacher at Rockhurst was very grateful to have Rensair placed in his classroom.
So far, the 2022-2023 school year is off to a good start at Rockhurst High School. Degraffenreid is optimistic and says Rensair is going to help the school deal with more than mitigating COVID-19. “Rensair is also going to help us contain the spread of the annual flu and other viruses that routinely sweep through schools,” he says. For that, everyone at Rockhurst is grateful.
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