GLEN SPEY, NY — What happens to a school’s physical campus when students are forbidden to attend classes due to the pandemic? That question was answered when Dr. Natasha Anandaraja, Assistant Clinical Professor in Public Health at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, made an urgent plea to her longtime friends at the Homestead School on March 18. “We are in desperate need of PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment). Is there anything you can do, Jack, to help our doctors and nurses?”
By day’s end and shaken by the horror stories Dr. Anandaraja depicted, Assistant Headmaster Jack Comstock had the Homestead’s 3D printers running prototypes of various designs for face shields. By week’s end with a preferred model selected, Comstock made an appeal to the community for resources to begin producing face shields en masse.
Comstock reached out to Sullivan County BOCES Superintendent of Schools, Robert Dufour, who immediately encouraged his district principals to mobilize teaching staff with experience and access to 3D printers to join the effort. And Homestead School families started delivering their own printers to the campus as well. “I never dreamed we would become an ‘industrial zone’,” quipped Comstock, who ordered the purchase of a fifth unit to augment the small 3D printing farm that was growing in his school’s tech area.
The gluing and assembly room was staffed by Homestead teachers Nisha Gupta (Comstock’s wife) and Liz Sherwood, who together with Comstock produced 30 shields a day. By Sunday, March 29, 150 face shields were completed, packaged and handed off to the NYC team for delivery to the hospitals.
In response to a plea for PPE’s by Bon Secours Nurse Practioner and school mom, Betsy Fitzpatrick, the Homestead School has connected with local county leaders making itself available as a resource for production. “With more units arriving, and a satellite factory of four printers opening in Beach Lake, PA, we hope to increase our 3D production to 75 shields a day,” said Comstock, who also teaches four daily hours of online classes. “I am working with a school dad, Dennis Cheng, and the NYC team to shift our production to respirators as well.”
If the community has resources to add to this effort or would like assistance in coordinating production in other locations, please visit www.homesteadschool.com for contact information.