As summer ends, students, faculty and staff return to educational facilities for the new school year – some for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While the percentage of people vaccinated continues to rise, schools will need to prepare for the forgotten viruses – norovirus and influenza. The 2020/2021 flu season was mild thanks to social distancing and other protective measures, but as schools return to their traditional learning environments, following proper cleaning protocols to prevent the spread of germs and harmful pathogens will be critical.
Facility managers should approach cleaning holistically and sustainably to support a safe and healthy environment when preparing to reopen. From disinfecting high-touch surfaces to promoting good indoor air quality (IAQ), consider the following best practices for a successful start to the new school year.
Increase cleaning frequency for high-touch surfaces.
Surfaces such as door handles, light switches, desks and chairs are breeding grounds for germs and harmful pathogens in schools. They pose a risk of spreading germs if not cleaned properly and regularly. Wipe down high-touch surfaces multiple times a day, even if most students, faculty and staff are vaccinated. Remember, schools must be prepared for other contagious illnesses such as norovirus, which can live on surfaces for up to two weeks, and influenza, which can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours.
Annually, teacher absences cost schools more than $25 billion, with substitute teachers costing schools nearly $4 billion. Student absences can hinder engagement and learning. Sanitized and disinfected surfaces make it less likely for students or teachers to become sick.
Use sustainable chemicals.
It’s critical to consider the safety of building occupants and cleaning staff when developing and executing a cleaning program. Products created with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) negatively affect the environment and indoor air quality. Using safe and sustainable cleaners and disinfectants that meet efficacy standards can help schools avoid causing harm to students and staff.
For instance, electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS) are cleaners and disinfectants created using salt, water and electricity and an on-site generator. With solutions made from three safe and easily accessible ingredients, schools can avoid aggravating health conditions such as asthma in students and staff while reducing their environmental footprint. If you’re unsure of which products to use, look for solutions or cleaning programs that are certified by reputable organizations such as Green Seal. These certifications confirm that the product or program has undergone rigorous testing to evaluate its effectiveness and safety.
Invest in high-tech equipment.
High-tech equipment, such as on-site generation (OSG) and robotic floor care equipment, can help schools provide a cleaner learning environment by increasing the productivity of cleaning professionals. For example, robotic floorcare equipment allows cleaning staff to revitalize floors, which experience the most wear and tear in educational facilities, and focus on other high-priority needs.
On-site generation enhances a school’s readiness to clean by creating a cleaner/degreaser and a disinfectant/sanitizer in a school’s custodial closet. Custodians can easily dispense these solutions into spray bottles, mop buckets and floor care equipment tanks. During the pandemic, many schools struggled to find cleaning chemicals because of the disruption in the supply chain. OSG offers a reliable supply of cleaning solutions and ensures consistency in cleaning results.
Poor IAQ can cause a plethora of issues for students and staff, who spend about 1,000 hours in classrooms each school year. Symptoms of indoor air pollution include fatigue, shortness of breath, hypersensitivity and allergies, sinus congestions, headache, coughing, sneezing and dizziness. If you notice these issues, it may be time to make improvements to your IAQ strategy.
First, assess the school’s current IAQ levels to get an understanding of the baseline. An essential factor that promotes good IAQ is following a regular cleaning schedule. Daily cleaning helps remove particles in the air, on the surface, and carpet and flooring. For greater assurance that your cleaning is not contributing to poor IAQ, adopt green cleaning methods like using safe and sustainable solutions and high-tech equipment that thoroughly removes allergens and pollutants like dust, pollen and dander. Additionally, prioritize proper air filtration by performing regular ventilation checks.
Clean Schools are Safe Schools
Now more than ever, it’s important to follow cleaning protocols closely to prevent the spread of germs throughout schools. By following these best practices or partnering with a building service contractor to take on the higher cost of high-tech equipment and time-consuming cleaning tasks, school facility managers can maintain a healthy school environment.
Keeping students, faculty and staff safe is key to avoiding absences and school closures. Contact us to learn how we can support your school’s cleaning needs and follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook for updates.