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Back-to-School Cleaning in K-12 Facilities

Back-to-School Cleaning in K-12 Facilities

School custodians and service providers prepare for a test of enhanced cleaning protocols

 

As summer waned this year, the question on a lot of people’s minds was how schools would reopen for fall classes. Across the country, K-12 school districts created plans to allow students, teachers, and staff to start the school year safely.

Whether school facilities reopened to students, or just to teachers who would run remote learning from their empty classrooms, one need was apparent—stringent cleaning protocols to keep the SARS-CoV-2 virus at bay. Cleaning professionals responded by examining their current cleaning methods and policies and ramping up their practices where needed. 

Hit the books on cleaning frequencies

As a goal of cleaning during a pandemic is to keep students from sharing their germs with classmates, custodians needed to reevaluate their classroom cleaning frequencies. Pre-pandemic, most custodians and school service providers would clean classrooms at the end of the school day, concentrating on restrooms, cafeterias, and other areas that needed immediate attention while students were present. If students remain in one classroom throughout the day, this method will still work. The opportunity for contamination occurs when students switch classrooms, but it is not feasible to do a thorough classroom cleaning in the limited time between class periods.

Service providers who work for SSC Services for Education, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based company that provides facility management and cleaning for more than 150 educational clients in 27 states, have come up with a creative plan to keep students from contaminating classrooms, said Seth Ferriell, CEO of SSC. When students enter classrooms for the first period, they sit only in odd-numbered seats in even rows. Then when students come in for the second period, they sit in the even-numbered seats in odd rows. If classes change two more times, the next groups of students can sit in the even seats in even rows, then the odd seats in odd rows. That allows four sets of students to use a classroom before it needs to undergo a thorough cleaning.

“For the youngest students you can color code the seats, so they know where to sit,” Ferriell said. “For example, the students in first period can sit on a seat with a red dot, then students in second period can sit in a seat with a yellow dot. When all the color dots have been used, we can come in and clean, without having to clean the room after every period.”

Custodians at the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, the second largest school district in the state, prepared for a school year with half of the students attending class in person Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other half attending Tuesdays and Thursdays. “We have the schools staffed during the day but we wanted to mitigate the impact we had on student learning so we do most heavy-duty cleaning at night,” said Shawna Cragun, who served as the custodial director of the district and is now director of transportation. Cragun is a member of the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges Steering Committee, a group of facility managers from schools and universities across the U.S. with award-winning, pioneering green cleaning programs.

During school attendance hours, custodians will focus on cleaning and disinfecting restrooms multiple times, along with other high-touch areas such as all handrails, push bars, door handles, and light switches. “We’re doing different things like propping doors open so they are not frequently touched, eliminating the use of lockers so students won’t congregate there, replacing water fountains with bottle fillers, and cleaning playground equipment twice a day,” Cragun said. “We will disinfect the school buses between routes.”   

Other areas receiving extra cleaning include restroom sinks; urinals; locks on restroom stalls; desks; chairs; and computer screens, mice, and keyboards. “Custodians start at one part of the school, make a circle through the entire school, then when they’re finished, they go through the circle again, so we’re doing continuous cleaning and sanitizing,” Cragun said.

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