Friday, October 30, 2020

School cleaning protocols in place to protect students

Ron Molina, head custodian at Windham Primary
School, cleans door handles at the school on
Wednesday morning. Across RSU 14 in Windham
and Raymond, custodial staffs are busy cleaning
surfaces, classrooms, bathrooms and common
school areas used by students and teachers
throughout the day to meet CDC requirements
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Elizabeth Richards

Strong cleaning policies for RSU 14 facilities are giving the district a head start in keeping schools clean and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Hansen, Director of Facilities, Property Services and Special Projects, said that for the past few years, the district has worked hard with custodial supply vendors to continually update and improve cleaning processes and procedures.  This included reviewing chemicals used, switching to all microfiber cleaning, and installing hand sanitizer in the classrooms.

As a result, the district was already well prepared to manage the cleaning and sanitizing protocols required to safely reopen.

“When the pandemic started, the cleaning processes in place were already appropriate,” Hansen said. “The changes that have been made focus on increasing our ability to serve the building while students are present.  This includes adding additional custodial staffing during the day, adjusting custodial hours to support the cleaning between student days, and for the time being restricting school use to educational purposes only so the evening custodial staff can focus solely on cleaning and not event set up or public use of the spaces.”

Specific protocols for cleaning and disinfecting during the pandemic are outlined in the 2020-2021 School Reopening plan, which is available on the home page of the RSU 14 website (, said Assistant Superintendent Christine Frost-Bertinet.

These guidelines include a long list of specific items throughout the school that must be disinfected and additional guidance around the use of tools and travel for maintenance employees. In addition to the
COVID-19 guidelines, custodial and maintenance employees must follow documented standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting.

Other measures have also been taken to promote good health in the schools.  As recommended by the CDC, Hansen said, RSU 14 converted most of the sink faucets in the district to hands free operation, allowing students and staff to wash without needing to touch the fixtures.

The district has also created outdoor classroom spaces for students, allowing for more social distancing, mask breaks, and fresh air.

“These spaces have been a hit with the students and have been used regularly,” Hansen said.  Large outdoor picnic tables were purchased for students to work at in these outdoor spaces, Hansen said.

“Going forward the RSU has plans to create several outside teaching space structures with roofs to allow expanded use of the outdoor environment for teaching and learning,” he said.

The district has also been focused on improving building air filtration and increasing the amount of fresh air into the spaces as recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) as a response to COVID, Hansen said.

“This increased air flow and filtration provides an improved indoor environment and the additional outside air also results in more air changes per hour resulting in more fresh outside air in the educational spaces,” he said.

Other upgrade projects are underway that will provide long term ventilation improvements, enhanced filtration, increased outside air flow and building controls upgrades designed to provide improved indoor environments, Hansen said. 

Inspections and preventative maintenance procedures have also been completed on the air handling and exhaust air systems to be sure they are operating efficiently and as designed.

Frost-Bertinet said that the transition back to school for staff and students has gone very well overall. 

“Students and their families have been following the expected health and safety protocols, they have     
transitioned smoothly to the new and unusual schedule and have demonstrated remarkable resilience in light of everything they are facing. We are incredibly proud of our students and grateful to our families for their continued support and flexibility,” she said.

The pandemic presents challenges for all involved: staff, students and families.

“Our staff has done an exemplary job of stepping up to the challenges we are all facing. They have kept students and families at the forefront of their thinking and worked incredibly hard to adjust to the myriad of changes in response to COVID-19,” Frost-Bertinet said.

Hansen agreed.

“Staying the course with mask use, hand washing, social distancing and staying home when not feeling well will be most important,” said Hansen. “The departure from our normal to this new state is a continued stressor for all and as a district we will continue to work to find ways to continue to provide the supports and assistance needed. This challenge is not likely to go away anytime soon and working together we can continue to be successful and deliver success for all.” <

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