These are unnerving times for schools — not that you need to be told that. If your school is opening in the late summer or early fall, you aren’t only concerned about creating a productive learning environment after an abnormally long break from in-person classes, you now also have to worry about spreading coronavirus amongst students and staff, and protecting everyone.
Many have voiced concern about transmission amongst students and staff, and families at home. Where CDC Guidelines for Preparing a Safe Return to School and Operating Schools During COVID-19 should be read closely, many aspects like school cleaning and disinfecting can be above and beyond a school custodial staff’s normal skills set. So, how do you keep it COVID-19-free when it’s going to be continually filled with students and teachers?
A top consideration in the CDC’s recommendations for maintaining healthy environments in schools is cleaning and disinfecting constantly — and not letting your guard down.
Obviously, there are no guarantees and you can’t promise students, parents, and teachers that you can keep a school completely protected from the coronavirus. However, you can do a lot to make sure that the school building itself isn’t hosting the coronavirus if and when it is accidentally introduced.
That is, your school cleaning service can make sure the virus isn’t lurking on desks, on doorknobs, sink faucets, playground equipment, or stair rails with an increased schedule of cleaning and utilization of disinfection products.
At Stratus Building Solutions, our franchise owners and their teams have been sanitizing, disinfecting and cleaning schools in North America for 15 years helping them combat flu season after flu season. If you’re looking to improve your school cleaning and disinfecting methods, we have several strategies we can suggest for your school:
Disinfect high-touch areas in your school. As scientists and the public are continually learning, the coronavirus is mostly spread through the air but the CDC says it may be possible to transmit by touching surfaces that have recently been exposed to the virus. Despite the fact that this is mostly thought of as an airborne disease, there is evidence that particles of the virus can live on surfaces not just for hours but days and even weeks. This is an important reason why hand washing and maintaining clean environments are still suggested by the CDC to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
To be safe and to follow best practices, you’ll want to make sure that, at least once a day, desks, doorknobs, computer keyboards, classroom pencil sharpeners and faucet handles are disinfected and sanitized. Face shields at teachers’ desks and other high-contact areas will be a new item in a lot of schools this year; don’t forget to routinely clean those.
You might also want to check out our school summer cleaning checklist and make sure you’re doing everything we’ve mentioned.
Some things may be better off not cleaned. That may sound like strange advice coming from a commercial cleaning company, but you may want to rethink certain items in the school that the coronavirus could be lurking on and aren’t practical to clean after each use. For instance, think about children’s toys in an elementary school, which are likely to pass from child to child and become very germy — you may want to restrict access to these toys for the duration of the outbreak.
For example, some schools are offering students their own laptops, so kids aren’t sharing computer terminals and keyboards, which can be difficult to clean. Depending on your school’s budget, that’s something to consider.
Your school janitorial staff should be trained in disinfecting COVID-19. Of course, if you have a full-time custodial staff, they probably already have a lot of experience in sanitizing and disinfecting. Still, the coronavirus is new and should be treated as the danger it poses to not only your students and faculty, but your cleaning staff as well.
For example, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) should be required at all times. This includes gloves, goggles, and masks. Your school cleaning staff should also have uniforms or coveralls that they can change out of at the end of a shift — in order to reduce the odds of taking the virus back to their own home. You’ll then want to have a system for getting those clothes and tools safely cleaned.
Your janitorial staff presumably knows this, but it’s also extremely important to pay close attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels. Refraining from utilizing the chemicals while students and staff are present is encouraged by the CDC. Cleaning classrooms during breaks and recesses is a good strategy.
Your teachers should have some cleaning training, too. You know that some teachers are going to do extra cleaning, whether you ask them to or not, and so make sure that you offer them some cleaning guidance as well.
We mentioned the hazard warnings and directions, and it’s worth noting that some cleaning products are harsh enough that you really shouldn’t be using them without gloves and eye protection. It is very dangerous to mix cleaning agents which can create a toxic chemical reaction, like mixing ammonia cleaners and bleach (ie Windex and Clorox) is a very easy, and potentially lethal mistake.
Additionally, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it — cleaning agents should be kept away from children. In this hyper-cleaning environment that we’re all in, that may be harder than in the past. But even a lot of store-bought cleaning products still aren’t safe for young children to be using.
Make sure you’re supplementing regular school cleaning with deep cleaning. Your custodial staff is going to have its work cut out for them. Even if you have a top-notching cleaning crew, to be fully reassured that you’re doing everything you can to combat the coronavirus, you may want to bring in a commercial cleaning service as a backup or for an occasional deep cleaning and disinfection service.
Deep cleanings are important. As you would think, they cover everything that teachers and a janitorial staff won’t be able to clean on a daily basis, such as thorough cleanings with electric and electrostatic disinfection systems. We recommend doing this once per week.
But certainly, starting off your summer school cleaning with a commercial cleaning service such as Stratus Building Solutions could be an excellent way to protect your janitorial staff and your teachers as they come into the building to start cleaning — and preparing students for a socially distant learning experience.
Conversely, it might be the last thing you’d want to do in your summer school cleaning process — a deep clean a day or two before the students arrive.
Some schools likely have an exemplary janitorial staff, but they may not have all of the tools or staff that a commercial cleaning company has, such as a UVC sanitizing wand — a cutting-edge tool that utilizes chemical-free, odorless UV-C light to destroy viruses, mold, bacteria and dust mites by penetrating their membranes and dismantling their reproductive capabilities in hard to reach places, like keyboards and telephone buttons.
Stratus Building Solutions also has the most advanced disinfection technology in chemical dispersal, electric and electrostatic sprayers available.
You also want a commercial cleaning company that specializes in utilizing green cleaning chemicals. For instance, Stratus Building Solutions has the Green Seal certification for Standard for Cleaning Products for Industrial and Institutional Use (GS-37).
In a time when cleaning is done so more frequently, an eco-friendly commercial cleaning service offers cleaning products that won’t harm the environment — neither the groundwater that we drink nor the air that we’re breathing right now; at a time where items like lung health are increasingly at the forefront during the pandemic – this is something to consider prior to your school disinfecting service.
Unfortunately, there are registered green hospital-grade disinfectants due to their pesticide-oriented components regulated by the EPA, however, there are less corrosive alternatives and applications that reduce exposure, something which Stratus Building Solutions prides itself in. Where chemicals are needed to combat viruses, like that which causes COVID-19, it is still proactive to use green cleaning products to prepare the areas for disinfection - reducing the occurrence of VOCs in the air as much as you can.
Additionally, you will want to use a professional commercial cleaning service that uses disinfectant cleaners that actually kill the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Just because you have a disinfectant, it doesn’t mean it will bring down the virus. Stratus uses Sani-Spritz Spray and ProKure, which kills the coronavirus as well as viruses such as hepatitis B and influenza. (That’s right, with all the attention focused on COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that there are other viruses out there, still lurking.)
All schools are becoming educated about best cleaning practices, and this year’s annual summer school cleaning is likely overwhelming. We understand that more than anyone. But ultimately, that’s why educating your staff about the best way to disinfect a school and protect it from COVID-19 is so important. The cleaner your classrooms, the freer you and your teachers will feel to focus on educating your students.