Breath of fresh air

Foundation donates air purifiers to Keene Central School

This is one of the 27 new Alen air purifiers installed at Keene Central School in early December. They were donated by the High Peaks Education Foundation. (Provided photo )

KEENE VALLEY — The High Peaks Education Foundation recently donated $15,000 worth of air purifiers to Keene Central School, and while they were not mandated by the state for in-person education during the pandemic, school officials say they offer another layer of protection for everyone in the building.

“It was phenomenally important,” KCS Superintendent Dan Mayberry said of the donation. “It was something that we … wouldn’t necessarily be able to do. The upgrade to our current air exchange system was much more cost prohibitive than that.”

The donation was the result of a grant application from a small group led by KCS reading teacher Melissa LaVallee. The request was for 27 air purifiers for classrooms and spaces where students are present on a regular basis.

“Our counseling suite, nurse’s office, that sort of thing, as well as all of our teaching spaces,” Mayberry said.

The Alen air purifiers were installed earlier this month. There are two different sizes: 18 larger ones for larger spaces and nine smaller ones for smaller spaces. So far, Mayberry said, it’s helped put people at ease in regard to in-person education.

Starting in September, KCS went to a hybrid model for education. While students in kindergarten through grade 6 are at the school every day, students in grades 7-12 spend two days at school a week and three days remote learning at home (either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays at school, with all 7-12 students remote learning on Wednesdays).

“This was not required, but it was something that’s been on the minds of a lot of people since we reopened,” he said, “and as we look toward the colder weather, not being able to have the windows open as much, not being able to be outside as often.”

When High Peaks Education Foundation board President John Schuler received the grant application, he started doing his homework on air purifiers.

“I reached out to the Alen (Corporation) air filter company in Austin, Texas,” he said.

After some recommendations from company staff, they found the portable purifiers they needed to get the job done at KCS. One of those models, for example, is the Alen BreatheSmart 75i True HEPA Air Purifier. Its medical-grade filtration removes up to 99.99% of allergens, dust, pollutants, bacteria, aerosolized viruses, and other harmful particles down to 0.1 microns.

It cleans 1,300 square feet every 30 minutes.

“So even beyond COVID-19, it can provide a healthier, cleaner air for the students and faculty and administrators at the school to breathe on a daily basis,” Schuler said.

The plan is to use them well into the future, according to Mayberry.

“Hopefully, long term, it will reduce any time there’s a cold or flu or other symptom running through the building,” Mayberry said.

High Peaks Education Foundation is a board made up of volunteer members that are committed to supporting Keene Central School and Little Peaks Preschool. Over the years, it has has helped provide forward-thinking initiatives that benefit the children, teachers and administrative personnel, the school itself and the community.

Schuler said the $15,000 for air purifiers was one of the biggest projects the foundation has funded. Only two were bigger: support for the townwide internet project and the installation of a new sound system and sound panels in the school’s gymnasium.

The High Peaks Education Foundation Endowment Fund is administered by the Adirondack Foundation with the purpose “to ensure the long-term quality and vitality of Keene Central School.” Donations may be sent to HPEF Annual Fund at Adirondack Foundation, PO Box 288, Lake Placid, NY 12946. Check should be made payable to HPEF at Adirondack Foundation.

Donations can also be made online at https://www.adirondackfoundation.org/funds/high-peaks-education-foundation-endowment-fund.