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Somers Ed Foundation increases grant funding to $50,000 for 2020-21

     Each mask is composed of two plastic pieces — a mask that sits directly on the face and a filter cover that can be removed and changed out if necessary.
     An air filter, made out of special synthetic material, is then placed between the filter cover and the mask. As it’s not possible to 3D print the filter material, it will have to be provided by the hospital.
     “The head of the business office, Bill Boutwell, was the one who kind of notified us or sent us the tutorial, and then we took off from there,” Niziolek said.
     Niziolek, Kosloski, and Stoltz each took home one of the high school’s three 3D printers last week. Although the time varies by machine, one mask typically takes around 3½ to 4 hours to make, Niziolek said.
     Larger machines, such as the one that Kosloski took home, can print several masks at a time. For him, it takes about eight hours to print five or six masks. So far, he’s printed more than 30 masks.
     Kosloski said that although he received some informal interest about the masks from staff at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, there’s been no formal request for them yet.
     He said that as of right now, there’s not a large demand, but that the goal is to continue printing and stockpiling them “in the event that this gets even worse, and health care workers have no other means for protection.”
     “Health care workers are going through so much right now,” said Stoltz. “We were just hoping to help in some way.”

Somers High School staff make face masks for health care workers using 3D printers
April 7, 2020     By Erika M. Purdy

June 30, 2020       By Erika M. Purdy

SOMERS — The Somers Education Foundation is increasing to $50,000 the amount of funding it has available for awarding grants to teachers in the upcoming school year.
     The organization’s board of directors voted unanimously this month to carry over the remainder of funds from the 2019-20 school year and add it to money the foundation sets aside every year — 4 percent of its endowment — in anticipation of financial burdens on the school system caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
   Since its inception in 2004, the foundation has provided private funding for the town’s public schools, explained Paul Salva, president and co-founder.
     The foundation is one of only a few in the state that provides this type of “sustaining endowment,” similar to a college or a private school’s endowment, to public education, he said.
   Each year, 4 percent of the endowment—alongside half of what the foundation receives that year in donations—is available for educators, who can apply for grants for projects not funded by the school system. But this coming year, that 4 percent will be combined with the remainder of last year’s 4 percent, increasing the amount of money on hand for grants.
   Funding will be available starting tonight at midnight when the 2020-21 school year officially begins.
   Salva said the foundation did not receive as many requests for grants during the 2019-20 school year as it had in previous years, which increased the rollover amount.
   “We didn’t have any grant requests in the fall this year,” Salva said. “Even when everything happened in the spring we only had one grant request for a sensory calming room” at Mabelle B. Avery Middle School. The request was unrelated to COVID-19.
     The foundation is also moving its grant process up from mid-October to the start of the upcoming school year so projects can be funded and, if possible, implemented immediately.
     Over the past 16 years, the foundation has doled out about $500,000 in grants — $85,000 for professional development for educators and $415,000 for specific educational projects. The foundation’s current endowment is more than $600,000, Salva said.
  Among such projects is the sensory calming room at Somers Elementary School, a project that inspired an educator’s request to have a similar one at the middle school.
   “It wasn’t big dollars but it had a big impact,” said Salva, adding that he anticipates similar requests for social and emotional learning projects due to the pandemic.
   Other past projects include white board technology for nearly every classroom in the school system, a seed grant for iPad technology for students, and updating the Chemistry Department at Somers High School.

Several face masks made by Somers High School library specialist Tenley Stolz sit in front of one of the high school’s 3D printers that she used to make them. 

Photo Courtesy of Tenley Stolz

SOMERS — With personal protective equipment in high demand by health care workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Somers High School staff are using 3D printers to make face masks using a University of Connecticut doctor’s design.
     “My hope is that these masks won’t have to be used,” said Nicholas Kosloski, a technology education teacher at the high school. “Right now we’re trying to have something ready if it gets that bad.”
     Kosloski, along with fellow technology education teacher Michael Niziolek and library media specialist Tenley Stoltz, was inspired by a YouTube tutorial by Christopher Wiles, a doctor at UConn and Hartford Hospital, who demonstrates how to make the masks. Wiles also linked to his tutorial free digital files necessary to make the masks.
     In his video, Wiles describes the mask as an “attempt to be the best last resort available,” only for use if the supply of official, hospital grade masks runs out.