Do you solicit interim cleaning help from students and staff? How has this aided/impeded in the cleanliness of the facility?  

Martinez: Yes, during the pandemic we had teachers and students wiping down their desks, tables, and counters. Since the pandemic ended, some teachers have stuck with that expectation and some haven’t — it’s hit and miss. When we are short staffed, we do ask teachers to help by making sure they pick up their rooms, large debris, and garbage, keep rooms clean. In these situations, we usually skip vacuuming classrooms and mainly focus on the high priority areas, such as restrooms, garbage, vacuum entry ways, nurses’ office, sweep and spot mop halls and stairs. 

Archuletta: We only really ask teachers to help in stacking chairs and picking up large items. 

Eichman: While there are several benefits from soliciting interim help from students and staff like promoting a sense of ownership, supplementing cleaning efforts, and educating on hygiene practices, we do not currently do this. One of the main reasons why we do not employ this help is that its effectiveness can vary depending on factors like the age of the students, the culture of the school, and the level of supervision provided. We may rethink this in the future and if we do it will be essential to ensure that interim cleaning tasks are conducted safely and effectively. Proper training and supervision will be crucial to ensure that cleaning products are used correctly, and tasks are performed in a manner that minimizes the risk of injury or cross-contamination. Additionally, clear guidelines and expectations will need to be established to maintain consistency and accountability in cleaning efforts. 

MacNeil: At our Facilities Management Department, we have some Building & Grounds custodians that are classified as floaters, whose hours are split between both the day and afternoon shifts to provide extra coverage to assist in maintaining the facilities. Some of the responsibilities are emptying waste containers in high traffic areas, policing restrooms, locker rooms, study areas and libraries. Doing this helps reduce the number of calls that would be taken by our call center and than assigned out. Within our HRA district (Housing Recwell and Athletics) and the rest of Facilities Management, we are budgeted to hire student workers who have assigned areas of responsibility during the day to keep the facility looking nice. In a number of HRA areas, the detail cleaning is done on the off shift, when the spaces are empty. 

Krause: We do employ student staff to supplement our full-time employees. Our student staff mainly work weekends within our facilities — it can help quite a bit when working in the living spaces of students (as we do in the dorms).  

Boyd: Yes, there are student helpers in some of the schools. The student helpers not only reduce the amount of cleaning areas for the custodial team but it also raises the awareness of the responsibilities of the cleaning staff and increases the respect for the custodians. 

Is the use of unapproved/outside cleaning products/equipment a problem in educational facilities? 

Martinez: Yes, but it’s not a district-wide problem. We usually have a small group of teachers in each school that will bring in their own cleaning supplies and pesticides. Once we identify who the teacher(s) are, together with the principal, we have a conversation (training) with them and let them know that we have our own cleaners and pesticides that are safer, less toxic, EPA approved, that we provide for them. We also have an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to control pests through common-sense practices. When needed, we use less-toxic pesticides in targeted areas to control pests. We train the staff on how to report a pest problem on our district website, and let them know that they can contact their Head Custodian for any pest issues.  

We do not have any issues with any custodians bringing in their own supplies, because we educate, train, and inspect them on our cleaners, equipment, and procedures. If we do find a custodian that does this, we have a conversation to find out why they are not using what we provide. It’s usually a cultural issue, “they have been using that chemical forever and that’s what their parents used growing up.” We provide them with extra training and education to make sure it doesn’t continue, and of course document everything. 

Archuletta: Yes. We find products in classrooms regularly that have been brought in by teachers. We have a quality-assurance team that will flag chemicals they see in rooms and closets. We have standardized products and QR codes in closets for Safety Data Sheets (SDS). We train our teams to properly dispose of items that end up in our cleaning closets. Our building managers will communicate with school leaders the concerns outlined when chemicals are brought in from home that should not be used in schools. 

Eichman: The use of unapproved/outside cleaning products/equipment have not been a problem so far in our district. Our custodial staff have been trained and instructed that if they see unapproved products to notify their immediate supervisor. The supervisor then works with the building principal to remove these products. To date, this system has been effective. 

MacNeil: We have experienced and will continue to see unapproved cleaning products come on campus. One of the chemicals that is brought on campus is in the residential areas. They say, for example, that drain clog removers work at home so why not in the dorm room. This is a big safety hazard for our plumbers who are responding to a clogged drain and do not know that a product was already tried. They open the trap and get splashed, possibly ending up with a chemical burn, or worse. Another example is in a research lab where it is policy to pour a mix 1:10 bleach/water down the drain. We have had situations where a stronger mix was dumped and causes the fumes to permeate through the HVAC system. Bringing chemicals from home is a problem because they can cause damage to surfaces that may not happen when used at home. There also wouldn’t be an SDS readily available in case information is needed about exposure. Communication, training and follow-up is the best way to continue to reduce unapproved cleaning products from getting on campus. 

Krause: This is a constant problem. Residents bring their own cleaning supplies, many of which can be hazardous, and they often have no understanding of the cleaning products they’re using. I find that staff constantly use products inappropriately or products that haven’t been approved by us for use, including products they’ve brought from home. We do everything we can to educate staff and residents. We do everything we can to hold staff accountable as well. If there is a facility that has been able to prevent this 100 percent, please share what you’ve done – I think a lot of us would love to know. 

Boyd: Yes, this seems to be an ongoing issue. We handle through reminders of NNPS Policies along with training and information on the chemicals/tools. 


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