School Project Cleaning: Planning for Success

By Amy Milshtein

School Project Cleaning: Planning for Success

Summer break may bring vacations for students but it’s the best season for the custodial staff to project clean. While it makes sense to high dust, scrub grout and strip floors while the kids are away, be warned: summer doesn’t guarantee an empty building. And even if your facility is student-free from June through September, effective project cleaning requires planning, coordination and a hard accounting of available tools, supplies and personnel. Are you prepared for the school project cleaning crunch?

Make a Job List

Create a written plan on what jobs need doing, what tools and supplies they require and how long the task is expected to take. This requires a room-by-room assessment of finishes, fixtures and furniture. Are the floors tile or carpet? Is the furniture in good shape? What about the window coverings?

Once the jobs are assessed, take stock of needed tools, cleaning machines and supplies. Make sure machines are in good working order and repair as needed. Some districts only order cleaning chemicals and tools once a year, often in the fall. If that’s the case, your custodial closets are hopefully stocked well enough to get you through the summer. If supplies consistently run low, use benchmarks from past summer project cleaning to inform yearly orders.

Assess how much time each project needs using ISSA performance standards. Be sure to add in some wiggle room, 16% extra is the industry standard, for worker fatigue and unexpected delays. 

Coordinate Calendars

K-12 schools and college classrooms and dorms rarely stay empty all summer long. Check calendars to see which rooms are scheduled to host summer school, camps or conference attendees. If possible restrict planned events to one section of the building at a time. When taking a room out of service for maintenance, don’t forget to add extra time at the end to let paint dry and floor finishes cure.

If your school is going to be completely empty, be sure to coordinate air conditioning and ventilation with HVAC personnel. Floor stripping and carpet extraction are high-moisture jobs. Working air conditioning will shorten drying time, prevent mold growth and keep workers comfortable.

Manpower Up

For colleges, student suites present some of the toughest cleaning challenges. Barry Meyer, facility manager of student housing custodial services, Johns Hopkins University, estimates that “40% of a custodian’s cleaning time is spent on the shower because it’s usually coated with a year’s worth of grim.” Meyer doubles his staff up to work on these spaces and contracts out other work to area vendors.

Even if you don’t plan to use a contractor, check in with your staff to coordinate vacation days and have a plan in place in case someone calls in sick.

Click here for school project cleaning tools and tips.

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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