Changing the Community Through Connections: a COVID-19 Story - Vermont Commons School Skip to main content

Changing the Community Through Connections: a COVID-19 Story

Vermont Commons School science instructor Mark Keegan assembling face shields for donation to local health care organizations


Written by Kent Vaccaro, Class of 2020:

One of the strongest places for community and connection across fields is locally at schools. Local Middle and High School, Vermont Commons School, began an intracommunity partnership seeking to help aid the front-line workers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially seeing a desperate need for personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically for face shield donations, Dr. Joanne Astill-Vaccaro approached her son, Vermont Commons Senior Kent Vaccaro, about a potential partnership with anyone at the school. “I know that Vermont Commons has a strong STEAM learning program, so I thought that someone at the school would be willing to help with the crisis,” Astill-Vaccaro said. She was right.

Soon, Dr Astill-Vaccaro was coordinating with science teacher Mark Keegan, as well as Dr. Dexter Mahaffey, Head of School. Using a professional, online template, Keegan was able to begin printing his own copies of the plastic face shield. “‘Doing what you can, with what you have, when you can’ is central to the Vermont Commons ethos,” says Keegan. “A single 3D printer of course cannot satisfy the entire need, but that’s no reason to leave it idle. The maker community has been openly sharing designs since early on in this crisis, enabling large numbers of people to make contributions that collectively made a meaningful impact. Our work on this was a good opportunity to practice what we teach.”

“The school was very receptive to my idea. They even told me they would purchase more 3D filament if needed. I was very impressed, and very thankful,” Astill-Vaccaro commented. As the masks started to print, they were donated remotely to UVM Medical Center to help with the pandemic effort. They have even been used by psychiatry professionals protecting their faces on community house calls. “It’s a good feeling to know that they’ve been useful to care providers in the local community,” Keegan said.

The Vermont Commons community is small and tight-knit, providing the perfect opportunity for professionals across disciplines to come together and make a positive impact.

Scholarship. Community. Global Responsibility.

Students emerge from their time at Vermont Commons School intrinsically motivated to seek out their role for improving the world, with the skills and competencies to do so.