Back to School?
There are over 13,000 school districts in the United States and they are all wrestling with one question: how to safely welcome students back this fall. The approach will be different for each district, depending on community spread of COVID-19. Some will be back in the classroom for in-person instruction, some will remain virtual and others will use a hybrid approach.
Expect that approach to change as local conditions get better, or worse. Or, as Jason Kamras, the schools chief in Richmond, Va., recently said on Twitter 'planning for reopening school this fall is like playing a game of 3-D chess while standing on one leg in the middle of a hurricane.'
One thing remains certain; enhanced cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting is vital for any district planning on an all in-person or hybrid return to class. Here are factors to consider when cleaning for returning to school.
Everything is a Touch Point
Touch point cleaning is high on everyone's list of COVID-19 priorities. Keeping heavily-handled spots like light switches and doorknobs clean and disinfected is paramount according to CDC guidance. The body lists common examples of touch points as:
- light switches,
- faucets and sinks,
- touch screens
Overlay this list on top of a list of common classroom equipment and it becomes clear that nearly everything is a touch point. But the CDC also advises using care when applying disinfectants. This is especially important for items used by children, especially on things they might put in their mouths, as many disinfectants are toxic when swallowed.
Desks Need Extra Attention
If maintaining desk tops was low on your to-do list, get out an eraser. With desks, tables and countertops listed as touch points, cleaning them should now be a priority.
This is not good news for maintenance workers. Cleaning desks is laborious, with repetitive circular motions putting strain on worker's backs and shoulders. Even more disheartening, servicing them with a cotton cloth doesn't remove soils and bio-pollutants as much as spread the stuff around.
Plus, this method doesn't treat each surface equally. The last desk 'cleaned' in this way ends up much dirtier than the first as the cloth and cleaning solution become more and more soiled with each pass.
Advanced technology like the KaiFly solves these issues. The combination trowel and squeegee and removes 80 times more bacteria than conventional microfiber towels and rags while maintaining the same level of effectiveness throughout the entire job.
KaiFly's ergonomic design makes the task much easier on worker's backs and shoulders while leaving desks, tables, counters and whiteboards clean and dry in half the time.
Floors are Flipped
Floors are touch points too. Don't believe it? Consider how many times a day a student retrieves something, a book, pencil, backpack or more, from the floor.
Mark Warner, education manager for The International Sanitary and Supply Association's (ISSA) Cleaning Management Institute, says we have 'as many as 50 direct and indirect contacts with floors every day,' in an article for Hotel Business. 'If pathogens are present [on the floor], there is a good chance they can be transferred to our hands, eyes, nose and mouth.'
Daily sweeping and mopping may leave floors looking clean, but looks can be deceiving as mops leave a lot of dirt and bio-pollutants behind. Autoscrubbers do better, but are expensive to own and hard to use.
Try a Kaivac AutoVac instead. This advanced technology removes 99.8% of targeted soils from floors, compared to autoscrubbers 99.4% or a new microfiber mop's 50.9%. They are simple to learn and easy to use, a plus when it comes to training new cleaning staff. And they increase productivity, working three to four times faster than mopping.
What about Classic Touch Points?
Maintaining those classic touch points: think handles, light switches and keyboards, is not as easy as it looks. These irregular surfaces require cleaning to remove soils and grime before disinfecting with an EPA-approved product. And, in a busy classroom, they should be serviced several times a day.
Disinfecting wipes can make the job easier, but the cost of disposable materials will add up. Cleaning towels are reusable but are notorious for accumulating and spreading soils if they are only wadded up.
SmartTowels, however, are numbered with eight quadrants so staff can flip to a clean panel and reduce cross contamination. Spray the clean touch point with an EPA-approved disinfectant, allow it to dwell for the appropriate amount of time, then wipe with the fresh panel on the SmartTowel.
Going back to school this year will be complicated. Enhanced cleaning doesn't have to be.
Get detailed information about how Kaivac helps you clean better and faster:
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.