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How to make schools safe enough for students this fall

A PSU researcher agrees with the CDC guidelines for returning students to schools but said there is more to be done to ensure their safety.

PORTLAND, Ore. — How should schools handle reopening? Should there be in-person classes, online-only, or a mix of both?

One thing is for certain, no matter what happens, things will be different.

"I think there's no greater issue facing America today than returning to school in the fall," said Portland State University researcher Dr. Richard Corsi.

Corsi has studied indoor air safety for nearly three decades and is playing a critical role in getting his school ready.

"I don't think there's a university that is going to be safer than Portland State University, and I mean that," he said.

As districts all over gear up for a return to school, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this week, released guidelines for reopening schools amid the Coronavirus pandemic 

The CDC guidance stresses personal hygiene, face coverings and regular cleanings and disinfection.

It maintains that desks should be 6 feet apart, arrival and dismissal times staggered, even empty rows should be kept between students on buses.

They are all steps Dr. Corsi agrees with but believes schools need to do even more.

He said de-densifying classrooms is priority number one.

"Trying to put 25 5th graders back in a classroom is not the right thing to do in my opinion," he said.

In addition to mandatory face masks, Dr. Corsi says proper ventilation will be key. Something districts should be working to improve right now.

"Schools are often under-ventilated and they're under-ventilated to conserve energy," Corsi said. "That's a recipe for disaster."

Corsi said districts also need to spend money on improved filtration as well as portable air purifiers for every classroom because without all these measures, sending kids back to school this Fall could result in another massive outbreak.

"There's ways of doing it right and ways of doing it wrong," said Corsi. "And forcing everybody to go back to school and not providing the resources that they need to get it right, is the way to do it wrong."

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