Whether or not we’re truly ready to send our kids back to school is a hotly-debated issue. As The New York Times put it:
“The first day of school is an annual rite of passage. But this year, the first day looks
very different for tens of millions of students returning to class. Students coming
back to classrooms face social distancing requirements and the risk of outbreaks
and emergency quarantines.”
Whatever opinion you have, it looks like a lot of students- from kindergarten through 12th grade- are heading back to school.
Unfortunately, the numbers associated with this development are not good. According to a recent report from Deloitte, at least 66% of parents are anxious about sending children back to school due to COVID-19, which isn’t entirely surprising. Into this matrix we must also consider the fact that while lower-income households are most likely to use non-digital resources, higher-income households, on the other hand, are more likely to use more personalized resources, such as live streaming and online tutors.
Without getting into the politics of such data, it’s clear- at least to the experts from McKinsey- that there are four priorities for school systems. They are:
Maintaining health and safety of students, staff, and the community
Maximizing student learning and development
Supporting teachers and staff
Establishing a sound operational and financial foundation
How Do We Protect the Health and Safety of Teachers & Students?
Good question. The answer actually depends on who you are and what it is you have to deal with, educationally speaking. Of course, there will always be some degree of overlap here, but you need to be mindful of the different demands that will be placed on you. Parents, teachers, classroom assistants, administration personnel, kitchen and maintenance staff, even PTA members, have to understand why most protocols are in place- and cleave to them conscientiously.
Cleaning Classrooms in the COVID-Era
Obviously, the traditional cleaning regimen- usually carried out by the maintenance staff, according to their schedules- will be a thing of the past. More frequent cleaning and disinfecting will now be the order of the day, so teachers and staff need to create plans that help them navigate the challenges of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.
Having a workable, agreed-upon schedule for this new routine is paramount. Without it, you will have only one outcome: chaos. I say ‘agreed-upon’ because unless you have complete and total buy-in from every sector of the school, you risk jeopardizing the health and safety of everyone. Your new approach to cleaning and disinfection should concentrate on frequently touched objects and shared items.
It’s also important that those using disinfectants and other cleaning supplies know what they’re doing. Everyone involved needs to understand how to safely use these materials and what personal protective equipment (PPE) should be employed.
One caveat here: Children should never handle or use any cleaning and disinfection products. Neither should these materials be used anywhere near children. No exceptions!
Memorizing the Cleaning Checklist
First things first: Safety.
Follow the directions on the product label.
Do not skip a step or modify any part of the directions.
Always use skin and eye protection to guard against splash hazards.
Make sure that the space you’re working in has sufficient ventilation.
Use no more than the amount recommended on the label.
Never mix chemical products.
Store chemicals and other cleaning products away from the children.
Again, the CDC recommends regular cleaning and disinfecting of the most frequently touched surfaces and objects. These include:
Door handles and knobs
Desks and chairs
Cabinets, lockers and bookshelves
Shared computer keyboards and mice
Pencil sharpener handles
Sinks and surrounding areas
Shared electronics such as printers
Other shared learning materials
You should also set a clear, daily schedule of when to clean these frequently touched surfaces. Here are some of the options you might consider:
In the morning before students arrive
Between each use of shared surfaces or objects
Before and after snacks and meals
Before students return from recess or breaks
After students leave for the day
Using the Correct Disinfectants/Cleaning Materials
There may not be as many disinfectants as there are stars in the sky, but they come close. And with so many products on the marketplace, it really is hard to know which one to use. The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) provides a list of disinfectants that meet their criteria “for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
As we pointed out in a blog about insecticides vs. disinfectants, the EPA classifies disinfectants as antimicrobial pesticides. Why? Well, the EPA says these compounds are:
“Intended to disinfect, sanitize, reduce or mitigate growth or development
of microbiological organisms or protect inanimate objects, industrial
processes or systems, surfaces, water or other chemical substances from
contamination, fouling or deterioration caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi,
protozoa, algae, or slime.”
This is why, when it comes to cleaning classrooms and protecting students and teachers, we recommend that you use Sterifab®. It’s the only EPA-approved product that “functions simultaneously as a viricide, bactericide, sanitizer, insecticide, deodorant, germicide-disinfectant, mildewcide, fungicide, bacteriostatic, and fungistatic.”
Here’s why you can safely use Sterifab in your school:
It can be used on almost all surfaces, including mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets, and other porous surfaces.
It dries in 15-20 minutes (at room temperature), is biodegradable, and leaves no residue or active ingredients.
You can also use it for applications other products are not suitable for, e.g., lockers, cabinets, drawers, rest rooms, gyms, railings, water fountains, buses and other transport vehicles, nurses’ offices, waiting areas, libraries, etc.
One final note about Sterifab: It should never be used on humans or animals, nor in kitchens, or anywhere near food.
Disinfectants in Schools: The New Norm
Iit would be nice if we didn’t have to include this section, but it looks as if we’re going to be living under these conditions for some time! It’s impossible to say when a vaccine becomes widely available, but even then, questions will inevitably be raised.
In the meantime you should always follow the guidelines issued by the CDC, the EPA, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and other government-sanctioned sites.
Also keep in mind that your local and/or state authorities will probably issue their own guidelines for back-to-school protocols. In all likelihood they will conform to the rules laid out by the various federal agencies. However, your local/state agencies may add certain additional rules that you should also follow. If there is a conflict, or questions, contact these local agencies ASAP.