Getting past the RFP is the first hurdle for a building service contractor who is new to the education market.

“Schools are looking for professional firms that are reliable, have integrity and are able to meet the requirements of the RFP,” Frank says. “They’ll look at your turnover rate and want to know how you’ll keep predators off the job site — how do you manage these personnel issues?”

Becoming educated about what it takes to clean a school involves research. The practices, procedures and processes are totally different in these facilities, Frank says.

Among the information BSCs need to know is:

• Whether state or federal regulations dictate what cleaning chemicals can be used;
• What kind of employee background checks are needed; and
• What percentage of tasks are non-cleaning tasks (handyman, event prep and clean-up, lawn care, pest control, HVAC maintenance, raising the flag, etc.)

Contractors will be expected to explain their own policies and procedures, including those pertaining to sustainability, absenteeism, the hiring process, insurance, safety and cleaning.

“The school district is looking for structure, for documentation, for detail,” Frank says. “If you treat this RFP like you would an office building’s RFP, it’s going to be a disaster.”

Contractors should also know they’re competing against large, national companies and/or smaller BSCs that have been cleaning schools for years and have their operating structures buttoned down.

“Schools are a niche market, and they’re not for everyone,” says Floyd Mahanay, president, Professional Janitorial Service, Houston.

While cleaning is still cleaning, no matter what the facility is, schools present their own challenges.

“There is a large variance in the ages and types of finishes in schools. There’s a lot more hard surface flooring than carpet, requiring a high level of expertise in maintaining these different surfaces. Carpet maintenance is a challenge in schools that allow food and drink to be carried,” Mahanay says. “Restrooms are very high-traffic and need deeper, more thorough cleaning and disinfecting compared to office buildings, especially in the lower grades.”

The school year’s gaps, breaks and seasons all present challenges for deep cleaning and floor restoration schedules, he adds.

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