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HEPA filters coming to North Shore School District

School officials: heath of students and faculty is a priority

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After a month of fundraising, the North Shore Viking Foundation, a nonprofit that supports North Shore Central School District students, has raised $130,000 to buy and install 255 high-efficiency particulate air filters in indoor areas throughout the district. That works out to about $50 per student.

The fundraiser, called HEPA Viking Out, began Sept. 30, after Lisa Cashman, a mother of two children at Sea Cliff Elementary School, presented the idea to the Viking Foundation. She started the fundraiser, she said, after looking over the district’s plans to keep students and teachers safe as the weather turns cold and outdoor learning is no longer an option. The fundraiser ended Oct. 30.

HEPA filters, Cashman said, clean the air of viruses, including the coronavirus, in enclosed spaces, and eliminate dust, mold and pollen. They will be installed in any room measuring between 900 and 1,500 square feet where  students or staff spend extended periods of time, and will ensure a steady flow of clean air in the buildings throughout the year. They will not be installed in larger spaces, such as cafeterias, she said.

The fundraiser was undertaken, Cashman said, when the State Education Department an-nounced in August that it would allow freestanding HEPA filters in classrooms. The effort was conducted mostly via email and social media, with parents, residents and businesses showing their support.

North Shore Board of Education President Dave Ludmar said the district had already committed much of its 2020-21 budget to ventilation improvements, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

“We invested a lot as a district in health and safety implementations,” he said. “At the time, the filters had not yet been approved for use, and when word came from Albany that they were permitted, the community sprang into action.”

North Shore Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo said the filters were ordered from a supplier and were expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

“I’m so thrilled and proud of everyone involved in this phenomenal effort in just 30 days,” Giarrizzo said. “Soon the HEPA air purifiers will be placed in all instructional spaces in the district . . . On behalf of the Board of Education, teachers, faculty, staff and students of North Shore, we extend our thanks to the Viking Foundation and the entire community for [their] generosity and dedication to the health and wellness of our great Viking Nation.”

After Cashman presented her ideas to the Viking Foundation, Co-president Maureen Denley said the group was happy to undertake the fundraiser to help ensure student safety. The group normally raises funds for school programs, Denley said. 

The Viking Foundation, she added, is grateful for the community’s support for the fundraiser. More than 400 community members contributed to the effort, Co-president Doug Wefer said, and seeing the community rally around a cause to support the health of students and staff members is a testament to the caring nature of its residents.

“We’re very lucky to live in a place that is able to come together and give this to our schools,” Cashman said, “because not everybody, even in our neighboring districts, could have this even if they wanted this. I’m grateful, and it’s not lost on me how privileged we are.”