With the Coronavirus pandemic causing disruptions to return-to-work and school plans nationwide, Georgia schools, like others across the country, continue to face challenges with ‘flattening the curve’ and maintaining safety procedures while educating students in-person. Administrators, health officials, and concerned parents are consistently in communication regarding the risks and safety protocols that can be put in place to ensure that schools, colleges, and other educational facilities don’t become hotspots for the spread of COVID-19.
Ivy Preparatory Academy is Georgia’s first state public charter school for girls. Founded in 2007 and located in the city of Atlanta, Ivy Prep’s large multi-building campus is home to 500 students ranging from middle to high school ages. The school prides itself on offering a passionate learning environment, with a strong culture that inspires excellence.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold in the U.S, Ivy Prep was just getting into its spring semester. Officials were monitoring the local and state reports, as well as CDC guidelines and advisories. The administration had their hands full attempting to determine the best course of action for the safety of the numerous faculty and staff, dozens of daily vendors and visitors, and hundreds of students. After reviewing all of the available information, the school decided to complete the semester with hybrid/virtual classes.
Ivy Preparatory Academy Administrative Assistant Kynea Griffith had been researching different technology solutions to reduce the risks of viral spread and reached out to 22Miles after searching for thermal screening equipment online.
“I don’t think anybody was prepared for a pandemic, especially the school systems. In February we started getting news of sicknesses and illnesses, and schools had to react very quickly. When March came around, we started getting notifications from the state department and the department of education, and we had parents, staff, and students calling with concern. Ivy has done everything that we can to make sure that we have every safety precaution in place,” Griffith commented.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and entering into the new school year, experiential 3D interactive wayfinding and digital signage technology company, 22Miles, has been working closely with a number of schools, colleges, and other organizations to offer customized digital signage systems for their facilities that address the challenges faced in ‘the new normal’. The Protection-as-a-Service™(PaaS) suite of solutions from 22Miles was created to address viral pandemics and the evolving safety measures needed to help manage the spread, such as social distancing and new needs for accessibility and communication. The PaaS suite includes the thermal screening solution, TempDefend™, which has proven especially valuable to colleges and schools as the fall semester reopenings began to go into full or partial effect nationwide.
Using the pause of the summer to reassess and hold deeper discussions with parents, staff, and officials, Director of Operations, Derek Bolton, recognized the importance of the school’s preparation in ensuring safety and peace-of-mind. By the beginning of the fall semester, the COVID restrictions mandates and infection rates in Georgia, particularly in the Atlanta area, had significantly increased.
A large number of schools had fully reopened in person on time, and within days or weeks had to promptly shut down and move back to virtual. Actively keeping the virus out of the building was the administration’s number one priority, for whenever the school decided to fully reopen.
“The resounding sentiment of our parents was that they were concerned about the safety of their children, and they didn’t want them to return to the school without a very secure plan,” Bolton stated.
Ivy had instituted a policy of regular temperature scanning of any visitor to the building, along with handwashing, social distancing, and other CDC recommended precautions. The existing protocol in place was to have Ivy’s receptionist/nurse use a handheld digital temp scanner to take the temperatures of individuals entering the building. The receptionist/nurse would also ask questions related to their health and possible exposure to COVID-19, while standing mere inches away from her. This setup was far from ideal, since the reception desk was more than 10 feet away from the school’s front entrance door, resulting in the possibility of infected individuals entering the facility and exposing the staff before their temperature was assessed. This reality placed the staff, as well as any others entering behind a potentially sick individual, at a higher risk.
22Miles worked with Ivy Preparatory Academy officials to install a 10″ TempDefend Thermal Scanner Kiosk at the front entrance of the school. The scanner faces the door, so that once an entrant is buzzed in by the nurse, the system automatically scans the visitor for elevated body temperature, displaying their temperature on-screen.
The solution also collects data in a secure and compliant system where designated school officials can access information. If a person with COVID-19 does enter the building, the data can then be reviewed for contact tracing, initiating school safety procedures, or other relevant protocols. Ivy’s administration appreciated the fact that they could fully customize the system, and the school’s administration felt that having a system like TempDefend in place was more important now than ever.
Another feature the administrators appreciated the system’s password-protection feature, citing privacy concerns of those screened. The fact that the system is automated and holds features that a regular thermometer lacks, was also important to Griffith and Bolton.
“Those who enter the building get their temperature scanned by stepping in front of the unit as soon as they come in, automatically.
“I think it is extremely helpful and beneficial to have the TempDefend system where there is a touchless temperature scan where in real-time these temperatures are logged into a secure database. The way we have our system set up our system here at Ivy Prep, is that TempDefend is our first point of contact, and that is a good ten to twelve feet away from the first person on our staff a visitor would meet. That allows the temperature to be taken at a socially distanced point, which keeps our staff safe” – Derek Bolton, Ivy Preparatory Academy Director of operations
Now, Ivy Prep’s top priority is to go the extra mile to ensure parents, staff, and students that when the school does return to a full reopening, they have systems in place to maintain everyone’s safety and health.
The staff is excited about the system, and that the school has taken the precautions to look out for everyone’s health and best interests. Administrators are also looking at additional units at other entry points of the school, as well as possible integrations of additional features that TempDefend offers.