The Clean Connection: Reducing School Absenteeism
Missing school is expensive in more ways than one. There are financial costs for sure. In fact, you can use this online calculator to roughly determine the total annual cost of absenteeism due to illness for your school. Be sure to add in the ripple effect on the local economy as parents miss work to stay home and take care of children.
School absenteeism has other costs as well. EdSource reports that 4th and 8th graders who missed three or more days of school before taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress had consistently lower average scores than their peers.
The reasons for chronic school absenteeism are complex. But there are some simple steps you can take to keep kids and staff healthy, and present, while they are in your facility.
The Germiest Buildings in America
Schools are dirty; even the “clean” ones. But don’t blame the janitorial staff. Students crowd into these spaces and cough, sneeze, eat and use the restroom all day long. Handwashing, if it takes place at all, may not be thorough enough to fully remove pathogens.
The result is buildings potentially filled with dangerous bugs like MRSA, c-diff, salmonella and E. coli along with viruses that cause influenzas and common colds. Catching any of these will lead to a few sick days at least.
The Germiest Spots in the Germiest Buildings
Certain areas are germ hotspots. Known as fomites, these touchpoints include: door knobs, faucet handles, paper towel dispensers, keyboards, water fountain toggles, pencil sharpeners and desktops. A study found that 50% of these fomites can harbor influenza A while 22% house norovirus.
The Cleaning Cure
This is where your custodial staff can really make a difference. Proper cleaning has been proven to remove these dangerous pathogens and cut down on costly school absenteeism. In the study mentioned above, children in the control classrooms were over two times more likely to report absenteeism due to illness than their peers in the test classrooms.
More dramatic results could be found at a school district in Missouri. While not a scientific study, the Rockwood school district reported 5% absenteeism during flu season compared to 15% in neighboring districts. Many reasons could be in play, but the Rockwood district recently switched from conventional cleaning methods to a No-Touch Cleaning system.
Wiping, mopping and other conventional cleaning methods spread soils around. Touch-free cleaning fully removes dirt and pathogens from surfaces, even heavily-contaminated fomites. The result is a more hygienic clean, less spreading of germs and potentially less absenteeism.
Click here for more ideas on how to keep your school healthy and clean.
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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.