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SHS Community Makes Personal Protective Equipment

Collectively, thousands of face shields have been produced for frontline workers
Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton (SHS) Lower & Middle School nurse Donna Stevenson (RN, PHN) began sewing masks for SHS employees who were essential on campus during shelter-in-place, so people would not have to purchase N95 masks needed on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. Soon after, she also joined the campus-wide, faculty-led effort to make plastic face shields for healthcare workers.
 
“As a nurse, I find it important to ensure we are properly using the supplies we have. I have many friends in hospitals now without the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and I want to ensure I do my part,” said Stevenson.
 
More than 20 faculty, staff, and RSCJ volunteers came to the SHP Creative Inquiry (CI) and P-8 Creativity Hub makerspaces in shifts over the past week, cutting 500 pieces of plastic into 3,000 face shields, using 3D printers and a laser cutter. A smaller group has organized to sew fabric masks at home. Both the plastic and materials for cloth masks are supplied by Maker Nexus, a Sunnyvale-based organization that has called on makers nationwide to produce PPE for medical workers.
 
“Using our equipment to aid in the COVID-19 crisis is the right thing to do,” said Dr. James Everitt, SHS director of mission initiatives & institutional planning, who started the project along with LMS teachers Maria Kemp and Ben Howe. “It fits into our mission in that the ultimate purpose of a Sacred Heart education is to participate in the transformation of the world by relieving human suffering.”

Through volunteerism and collaborations like this one, Dr. Everitt and others have felt the SHS community strengthen, despite shelter-in-place orders.

“It has been a nice cross-campus effort. People don’t get to mix often, and this gives a small group of people the opportunity to get to know one another,” he said.

Kemp, a first-grade teacher at the Lower School, said the project gave participants a “general sense of relief” to find an outlet where they could “make a difference in a way that’s sustainable and not overwhelming,” as teachers juggle their remote workload and family obligations.

“As educators, I think we want to always have an answer or be able to help. It was good to be around each other—six feet apart—and knowing that we could do something to help,” said Kemp.

Alumnus Russell Roberts (SHP ’17), home in Portola Valley from his college, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, tapped into resources at the SHP makerspaces, borrowing three Prusa 3D printers to produce face shields. As president of his college’s maker space, The Forge, he launched an effort three weeks ago that spans both coasts. Eighteen makers create 500-700 face shields per week; the group supplies shields to St. Peter’s hospitals in upstate New York, and partners with additive manufacturing company Stratasys to create its design of face shields.
 
“The 3D printing community has really been seen as hobbyists with no true value in actual industry, but the fact is that 3D printers have the capability to quickly create very complicated shapes that would take traditional machining ages,” said Roberts.
 
Makers can also address the needs of smaller industries that may be overlooked by larger manufacturers, he said.
 
“I had a dentist friend reach out to me to say there are very few masks that can fit over dental loupes [magnifying glasses], so I have been creating a custom face shield to accommodate this niche industry,” said Roberts.
 
Diego Fonstad, parent of two SHP students, is coordinating a “hub” of community members and students from nearly a dozen area schools along with independent makers, who together have made 2,000-plus face shields using 3D printers over the past four weeks. The shields are being distributed to numerous Bay Area hospitals, and even Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Recognizing the procurement challenges of smaller practices, the group began donating shields to a hospital and clinics in Arizona serving rural and reservation populations.
 
“We have created a model where everyone can pitch in and work together to address the PPE shortages. Every face shield, mask, or gown makes a difference,” said Fonstad.
 
Along with larger, coordinated efforts to make PPE, many in the SHS community are crafting fabric masks individually at home. Those include Clint Johns, SHP CI teacher, who purchased a sewing machine for the task; student Hannah Lesti (SHP ’20), who as an independent inquiry student was making a harp, but shifted her work to create masks instead; and SHS Director of Technology Dr. Joy Lopez, an accomplished seamstress who has made over 40 masks for family and SHS colleagues. Dr. Lopez is also assisting a student, Hannah Lindquist (SHP ’22), in learning to sew.
 
“Dr. Lopez explains things so well, and that has really helped me understand the basics of sewing,” said Lindquist, who with her grandmother has sewn 35 cloth masks for family, friends, and neighbors as part of her CI course.
 
“Having to stay away from my friends and limit my time outside has made me feel pretty lonesome. Sending people masks is a way I can feel a sense of purpose while still social distancing.”

Are you making PPE or helping in other ways during the COVID-19 crisis? We'd love to hear more about it! Email us at communications@shschools.org 
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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12