Impact On Learning

Simsbury Public Schools


The benefits of the new tools and techniques, like HEPA-filtered backpack vacuums, and the ProTeam High Dusting Kits remove allergens from the air, so the health of the environment is improved. Cleaning for health creates the best environment for the students, educators and support staff. This helps to cut down on lost sick days for everyone and increases the school’s ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn.

Project Snapshot

PROJECT: Simsbury Public Schools
LOCATION: Simsbury, Conn.
COMPANY NAME: ProTeam, The Vacuum Company


Just northwest of Hartford lays the small town of Simsbury, Connecticut – a town where the largest employer is the local school district, Simsbury Public Schools. The district is comprised of five elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and an administrative building—a total of 750,000 square feet of facility space. For over two decades, it has been Steve Twitchell’s challenging job to oversee maintenance of that space from floor to ceiling to keep the facilities healthy and safe for the students, teachers, and support staff.


He does so with the help of ProTeam vacuums. Twitchell was introduced to ProTeam vacuums by his distributor back in the early 2000s. He previously used stainless steel canister vacuums, but he was attracted to the speed of backpack vacuums for routine cleaning.

“ProTeam backpack vacuums are fast and affordable,” said Twitchell, supervisor of Buildings and Grounds. “They are built for speed. When a custodian puts on a backpack vacuum, they just keep moving until the space is clean.”

Twitchell also invested in ProTeam ProForce® 1500XP upright vacuums to clean in each building’s lobby as needed. Twitchell says, the uprights are quick and convenient for cleaning up soil tracked in from outside.

A few years after Simsbury Public Schools bought their first ProTeam vacuums, a team from the company visited Twitchell’s department. The ProTeam engineering department sat down for an educational session with the custodians.

“We threw some suggestions at them, and they actually incorporated some of them,” said Twitchell. “They also gave us a good service manual. It helps us identify what is going on with a vacuum, how to repair it, and put it back together they way the factory recommends. We learned a lot from that visit.”

One takeaway was the importance of regularly changing their vacuum filter bags. A filter that is more than half full weighs down the vacuum and puts undue strain on the motor. Simsbury custodians now change their filter bags at the end of every workday.

“The custodians absolutely love their ProTeam vacuums,” said Twitchell. “There’s a sense of ownership. That sense of ownership leads to better vacuum maintenance and cleaner buildings.”

Over the last winter break, the custodial department rented a rolling lift to tackle high cleaning in one school. They paired their backpack vacuums with ProTeam High Dusting Kits to clean dust off of ceilings, overhead ducts, and fans.

simsbury“We could feel and see the difference after cleaning with the high dusting attachments,” said Twitchell. “During summer vacation, we’re going do high dusting at all of the other schools.”

Even without a lift, Simsbury custodians can reach more areas with their high dusting kits. One school has a 14-foot wall of windows with windowsills that gather dust. Using the extension wands, a custodian can reach and vacuum those windowsills with their feet planted safely on the ground.

It is critical to remove dust from every surface, because dust can be inhaled and trigger asthma and allergies. For Twitchell, creating healthy buildings is a top priority.


The benefits of the new tools and techniques, like HEPAfiltered backpack vacuums, remove allergens from the air, so the health of the environment is improved. Cleaning for health affects all the kids. The maintenance team’s main responsibility is to create the best environment for the students, educators and support staff, which helps to cut down on lost sick days and increases the school’s ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn.

Editor’s Review

The U.S. EPA’s 2010 study, entitled “How does Indoor Air Quality Impact Student Health and Academic Performance?” states, “Substandard environmental conditions in schools, such as insufficient cleaning or inadequate ventilation, can cause serious health problems for children.” It goes on to say that it also directly impacts student academic performance. This project is an example of providing a better learning environment where students feel safe and confident that their school is providing them with a healthy environment. Not only does this mean that students and teachers need to take less sick days, but the more relaxed, healthy attitude allows them to dedicate their full attention to teaching and learning.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management April/May 2019 issue of Spaces4Learning.

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