School operations should focus on key areas to ensure schools are taking the best first step forward now and in the future.

5 ways to use ESSER funds to create cleaner environments

School operations should focus on a handful of key areas to ensure that schools are taking the best first step forward--one that will be attainable for the long-haul

These services help to maintain the school and prevent the buildup of dirt and grime. Hard-to-reach places like cafeteria rafters may go unnoticed on a day-to-day basis, but they can quickly acquire enough dust to become unsightly and pose a health risk. Deep cleans address every surface of the school and bring it back to life after a semester of heavy use.

  1. Periodic Disinfection

If the Covid outbreak taught schools anything, it’s that periodic disinfection isn’t something that should be taken lightly. In fact, the pandemic ensured disinfection is just as essential as regular cleaning. Periodic disinfection means having a plan in place and a service provider in the event of a COVID-19, or other virus outbreak, event at a school. High-quality providers have access to advanced technology, such as electrostatic sprayers, which are safe and effective for killing the germs that cause viruses. Periodic disinfection should be used as both a prevention strategy, as in the case of COVID-19, the flu and common cold, and an emergency response.

  1. Long-Lasting Surface Protection

Even in those schools or districts that prioritize frequently disinfecting high-touch areas, it’s impossible to ensure they are wiped down between each and every person touching them. Technology now exists to protect surfaces for longer periods of time. Products like Continuous Care use cutting-edge technology to disinfect and create a long-lasting antimicrobial coating and surface protectant that is applied after cleaning is complete. The disinfectant and antimicrobial coating used with Continuous Care is an EPA List N approved disinfectant, confirmed to be effective in killing SARS-CoV-2, the virus associated with COVID-19. Applying it with an electrostatic sprayer provides 360-degree coverage, killing viruses and inhibiting the growth of bacteria and microorganisms.

  1. Indoor Air Quality

It goes without saying, but properly-operating ventilation is vital to maintain the ongoing health and well-being of everyone at a school. For school leaders, it’s important to consider Ventilation Mitigation strategies as part of the disinfection process. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitoring devices report on the levels of common pollutants and other air conditions in real-time. They also help reduce costs by identifying areas of overspending on heat and air conditioning and improve employee happiness by increasing air quality. Portable air cleaners can help reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. They may be particularly helpful when additional ventilation with outdoor air is not possible without compromising indoor comfort (temperature or humidity), or when outdoor air pollution is high.

That said, an air filter is not nearly enough by itself to fully protect people from COVID-19 and other viruses. The CDC recommends HEPA fan/filtration systems be used only to enhance air cleaning, especially in high-risk areas. Dry Hydrogen Peroxide (DHP) systems turn humidity from the air into hydrogen peroxide that can safely and effectively reduce microbes in the air. In addition to being safe for human exposure, it is used in occupied settings and provides an effective no-touch addition to a manual cleaning process, which assists with ongoing decontamination in high-traffic areas.

Making the Most of Every ESSER Dollar

At a time when every dollar spent is scrutinized, it becomes more important than ever to ensure discussions about cleanliness and disinfection are part of a larger operational conversation. Getting leadership’s buy-in will be critical to not just launching a sound program but maintaining it for years to come.

Start by creating a committee of advocates whose expertise and vision from diverse areas of the school can strengthen your cleanliness and disinfection plan. Bringing different points of view to the table, they’ll likely bring up questions that are otherwise not considered.

Next, create a realistic budget. Leveraging the strength of a national facility management provider helps build a framework for a right-sized budget. They also help identify priorities by building out “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” based on individual needs.

Become well-versed in what your cleaning plan currently looks like and put a critical lens on what may be missing. Ask industry experts about often overlooked areas, and also off-limits areas, deep cleaning and disinfection frequency, the need for air filter changes and general guidelines on best practices in terms of regularity and effectiveness.

Faculty, staff, and students play a critical role in a facilities management program. Take the opportunity to educate them about new cleaning and disinfection practices, and empower them to have skin in the game by taking on tasks to help create a safe place to learn.

Know You’re Not Alone

The idea of implementing and maintaining an effective advanced cleaning and disinfection regimen is daunting. But the existence of ESSER funding, which currently needs to be spent by Sept. 30, 2024, creates an opportunity for facilities and operations managers to leverage the many resources that exist to put them on the path to continued success.

From ongoing day-to-day cleaning, disinfection and indoor air quality checks – to specialized summertime solutions – it’s essential to have a commercial cleaning provider that understands the unique needs of schools and aligns with each school’s needs. Not only are health and wellness philosophies invaluable, but it’s also key to execute a well-thought-out plan, while making the most of the precious funding that has been made available to create a foundation for lasting change in a school’s facilities management plan.

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