New Britain High School has been closed since March 13. Yet, lessons are still being taught there.
Inside the gymnasium is an assembly line, making protective face shields. Students are encouraged to volunteer, not only to help fight this health crisis but to experience something that could help to create what the school district describes as, “the whole child.”
“That means creating men and women who have strong aspects of character and habits of mind in addition to academics,” said Nancy Sarra, New Britain superintendent of schools.
A New Britain-based medical device and equipment company, OKAY industries, facilitated the partnership with New Britain Schools. Together, they’ve partnered with other community groups and are now creating protective face shields that will be provided to area hospitals, first responders and other health organizations.
Volunteers are given a health screening before entering. They remain socially distanced and wear masks and shields themselves. Five to seven people form an assembly line, piecing together the shields.
In a community effort, New Britain Schools sees this, not only as a way of helping in crisis, but as an important educational experience.
“Education goes beyond academics,” said Sarra. “It’s all about being civic-minded and helping the people who are fighting this fight for us every single day.”
Inside volunteers, comprised of community residents and area students, have been busy.
“I wanted to help out, the best I can during these intense times,” said, Ian Franczak a student from Berlin.
Students involved are not only learning how to assemble masks but how to help a community in need.
“It means a lot because I can save lives just by building a mask, to help people who need it,” added Sam Franczak.
In its first two days this group created more than 2,000 face shields. The goal is 22,000.
“I came here today to give back to what (health providers) are doing for us so that we can speed up the process of kind of returning life to normal,” said Greg Dresko, a New Britain School teacher who volunteered Tuesday.
To accomplish their goal, organizers say they need 20 volunteers a day and are looking for more.
In order to volunteer, people should go to the Consolidated School District of New Britain website. Students must be between 15 years old and have parental consent. Being a New Britain resident is not required.
“You know it knows no zip code,” said Sarra. “It’s whoever is willing, available and healthy to help us.”