Cleaning & Maintenance

Does Your School Maintenance Plan Pass the Test?

For school administrators, facility teams, teachers, and students alike, the current school year may be one of the most challenging you’ve ever faced. While students have likely been back to school in some capacity since the fall, getting them in the door, whether physically or virtually was only the first complicated step. According to data compiled by Education Week, around 75 percent of K-12 schools across the country have no state-level order dictating if instruction needs to be held in-person or virtually at this time. As each institution weighs its options, maintaining and ensuring the safety of students, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season has raised some challenging questions, primarily around cleanliness and disinfection.

While infection control in schools has always been a concern, this season has brought new and unique challenges. Although you set your initial school maintenance plan during the late summer months, now is a good time to evaluate its effectiveness, find opportunities to refine your processes, and make sure you and your teams are doing all you can to safeguard students and staff if and when they enter your doors in person. To help evaluate your plans, here is a suggested checklist to audit your facility, its disinfection use, procedures, and communications plans:

Careful Assessment

  • Have you assessed your initial school maintenance plans?
    • If yes, excellent. Assessing your facility’s current status periodically allows you to gain insights into the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement across your organization. With COVID-19 guidance and regulations evolving quickly, keeping your pulse on the health and safety of your facility is key to making quick decisions and swiftly implementing procedures and policies.
    • If no, start now. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture as your to-do list grows and daily pandemic requirements become routine. Without gathering data consistently, your team may miss problems that can affect the cleanliness and safety of your organization unless carefully monitored.

Dutiful Disinfection

  • Before using disinfection chemicals, is your team pre-cleaning?
    • If yes, keep it up! Pre-cleaning is the physical, mechanical means of cleaning a surface of dirt, dust, and debris before using chemicals. To allow for a chemical to work fully as intended, it must be able to completely cover pathogens.
    • In no, add pre-cleaning to your daily process. To effectively disinfect, it is important to physically remove impurities on a surface before using chemicals.
  • Are you using EPA approved disinfectants that meet list N requirements or have received the official SARS-CoV-2 virus efficacy claim?
    • If yes, keep using your chemicals as directed. The U.S. EPA is continuing to approve disinfections for the adoption of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, efficacy claim. Monitor the EPA’s website for an updated list of disinfectants suited for coronavirus.
    • If no, look to switch to EPA approved disinfectants as soon as possible. In addition to products carrying the SARS-CoV-2 efficacy claim. It is important to note that the EPA also activated List N during the pandemic to allow manufacturers to register products with the EPA that are effective against viruses harder-to-kill than SARS-CoV-2.
  • Are you following product usage labels closely and abiding by dilution factors and dwell times?
    • If yes, that’s great! All team members that are responsible for using disinfectants must understand and follow product labels to ensure safe and effective usage. This includes teachers and staff who may be new to using cleaning and disinfecting products in their classrooms.
    • If no, carefully review your current product labels. While a common misunderstanding, using more chemical does not equate to a better clean. Instead, using the appropriate amount of chemical with the proper dilution is key. Consider using a chemical management solution to take the guesswork out of mixing chemicals and to help your team properly and easily dilute chemical concentrates every time. While we are all moving quickly, following dwell times as instructed by the product label is also crucial. Dwell time constitutes the amount of time disinfectants need to remain wet on surfaces to properly cover pathogens and completely disinfect.

Consistently Communicating

  • Do you have social distancing measures in place?
    • If yes, keep it up! Social distancing can have a big impact on stopping the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Social distancing signage should be used in hallways, in classrooms, and in places where students and staff tend to congregate, such as bus lines or cafeterias.
    • If no, consider adding safety guideline signage throughout your building. Reminders to follow a one-way flow of traffic, practice safe hygiene, and keep a safe distance from others can help facilitate a safer environment for all.
  • Are your students and staff practicing safe hygiene?
    • If yes, keep encouraging sound hygiene practices like wearing masks, washing hands, and covering coughs. These efforts, while they may feel small, can significantly help stop the spread of illness.
    • If no, using signage can be a great way to gently remind people of safe hygiene practices and your facility’s policies. Glass graphics are great for mirrors to encourage hand washing while window and wall graphics can help remind all who enter the building of your policies.
  • Have you been communicating with students, parents, and staff about your efforts?
    • If yes, continue to keep the lines of communication open. Honest and open communication about your cleaning plan and how it impacts students and staff can go a long way in encouraging participation and building trust.
    • If no, consider enacting a consistent communication strategy. Being transparent about your cleaning measures can help reduce fear and anxiety and build confidence in your processes. 

Passing the Test

It has always been important to create a healthy environment for learning. As part of your COVID-19 preparedness plan, you need to continually audit your space to make sure it passes the health and safety test. From chemicals to signage, training, and more, with sound cleaning and maintenance practices in place, you can help keep your school clean and healthy.