Cough, cough, sniff, sneeze, sniff. That chorus of wheezing and sneezing means only one thing; cold and flu season is back and every sniffle, snort and snuff puts the school population at risk. Parenting magazine reports that students miss a collective 32 million school days a year due to flu. What no one reports, however, is how many people don’t stay home. Instead these “hearty” souls choose to power through, come to school sick and leave germs and viruses in their mucous-y wake.
Luckily there are cleaning tips and techniques proven to keep students faculty and staff healthy throughout the season.
High Five for Hand Hygiene
Clean hands help prevent infection. Most people contract colds and flu by touching a virus-covered surface and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. Washington State’s Department of Health advises that good hand washing habits are the number one way to keep germs from spreading. They advise washing before eating, after using the restroom and after recess. Add after wiping or blowing your nose and after coughing or sneezing to the list to further protect students and staff.
If soap, water and a sink are not available use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. Note that sanitizers should not be considered a replacement for hand washing as they don’t work well when hands are dirty or greasy.
Clear the Clutter
The National Education Association advises teachers to “minimize the number of objects in a classroom that are handled by students and can carry germs” including soft furnishings like couches, bean bag chairs and rugs. These items harbor dust, dust mites, pet dander and pathogens which can trigger asthma. Opt for vinyl or easily-wiped upholstery for furnishings and tightly-woven carpet over a plush rug.
Make life easier for school custodians by keeping horizontal surfaces as clear as possible. Desks, shelves and countertops need daily attention, but it takes longer to clean a surface covered in stuff. De-clutter at the end of the day so cleaning staff can get to work at night.
Touchy about Touchpoints
Touchpoint maintenance is key for healthy classroom cleaning. Door pulls, door frames, light switches, stair rails, faucets and paper towel dispensers are handled by students and adults hundreds of times a day. Custodial staff will clean these areas nightly, but teachers and students can help while school is in session. Pat Nicholson, past winner of the C.L.E.A.N. Award (Custodial Leaders for Environmental Advocacy Nationwide) suggests wiping these surfaces with an “effective sanitizer and microfiber towel…to limit the spread of viruses.”
Oh and the best tip of all? If you’re sick STAY HOME!
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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.