SHS Teacher Buonanno Introduces Air Filters to Her Classroom



SHS Chemistry Teacher Anna Buonnano introduces air filters to her classroom.

Daniel Rublin

When SHS students returned to classrooms after a summer that ended with a rise in COVID-19 cases, it was a relief to some to see HEPA filters, which aim to reduce indoor COVID-19 spread, in the school. Students quickly realized that these filters were only in some classrooms and bought by the teachers themselves.

SHS Chemistry teacher Anna Buonnano explained that she bought HEPA filters under the advice of her doctor. Buonanno was all-virtual all of last year because she is immuno-compromised. “When my doctors and I spoke about me going back after being vaccinated and making sure that the majority of people in the building were also vaccinated, that one of the things I could do to keep myself safe is to control… the environments that I spend the most time in.” Buonnano said that she keeps HEPA filters both in her classroom and in her office, two rooms that she spends significant time in.

Buonanno explained that more and more research is emerging that supports the notion that good ventilation is exceedingly important in mitigating COVID-19 spread. “I was in touch with environmental engineers… [they do] HVAC and ventilation and the physics of particles moving through space… and they did say that without a doubt ventilation is likely as important as like masking to prevent the spread,” explained Buonnano. The HEPA filters in SHS aid in ventilation, as they circulate air. Even though Buonanno believes that ventilation is incredibly important, she understands why the school did not buy HEPA filers for every teacher. “I can understand why it wasn’t the number one conversation, because we happen to be pretty lucky in that we live or work in an area where the vaccination rate is quite high,” said Buonnano. 

Buonnano mentioned that placing HEPA filters in classrooms could prevent the spread of sicknesses other than COVID. “I feel like moving forward… understanding that respiratory viruses already exist, can get worse and there may be outbreaks all the time,” explained Buonnano. Recently, tons of SHS students have been coming down with non-COVID sicknesses, and prevention of the spread of these illnesses could help to keep kids healthy and in school.

The existence of filters in her classroom has made Buonnano feel better about kids’ safety when doing group activities and interactive work, as she feels that these activities are now safer for the students with the HEPA filters throughout the room. “We figured… we want to do labs. The rooms are small. The kids are very close together when we’re doing labs. We wanted that situation to be at least safe for them while they were doing labs,” Buonnano said. “Other schools are just forgoing in-person group labs because of [COVID] still. And we just didn’t want to have another year like that, so in order to make it safe… everybody in [the science] wing is thinking about ventilation, whether they bought filters or not,” Buonnano added. “We’re all thinking about how many windows are open at one time. Do I need the door open to increase air flow? I’m pretty sure we’re all kind of aware of it all the time,” Buonnano added.

A HEPA filter in a SHS classroom, which poses several benefits to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. (Maroon)