How important is the use of green-certified chemicals or sustainable practices and why? 

Martinez: Incorporating sustainable practices is extremely important, because of the occupants that have allergy and asthma issues that traditional and quaternary cleaners and disinfectant are known to trigger. It is rare that a green-certified cleaner has those triggers. It is also safer for our employees who use the chemicals for cleaning and disinfecting in their daily tasks. Everyone must be mindful when using pesticides of who will be exposed, especially at the elementary age where their bodies and minds are still developing. We don’t want to expose them to harmful chemicals that can compromise their growth. 

Archuletta: We are always looking at new chemical solutions. 

Eichman: We are not currently using green-certified chemicals and sustainable practices in our cleaning operations, but I want to make the switch before the beginning of next school year. The main reasons we plan to make the change are: 

a) Environmental Protection: Traditional cleaning chemicals often contain harsh ingredients that can be harmful to the environment. By adopting sustainable cleaning practices, our district can contribute to environmental protection and conservation efforts. 

b) Health and Safety: Green-certified cleaning chemicals are typically less toxic and safer for both cleaning staff and building occupants. Sustainable cleaning practices prioritize the use of safer, non-toxic alternatives, thereby promoting a healthier indoor environment. 

c) Occupant Well-being: Maintaining a clean and healthy indoor environment is essential for the well-being and productivity of students, staff, and visitors. Sustainable cleaning practices help reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and allergens, leading to improved indoor air quality and overall occupant comfort. This can result in fewer instances of allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and other health issues associated with poor indoor air quality. 

d) Community Perception: If our district prioritizes the use of sustainability and environmental stewardship, we demonstrate our commitment to social responsibility and community well-being. Adopting green cleaning practices can enhance our district's reputation and foster positive relationships with students, parents, staff, and the broader community. 

e) Regulatory Compliance: As environmental regulations become increasingly stringent, districts may face regulatory requirements to use environmentally friendly cleaning products and practices. By proactively adopting green-certified chemicals and sustainable cleaning practices, we can ensure compliance with applicable regulations and avoid potential fines or penalties. 

f) Healthy Green Schools & Colleges (HGSC): We are a member of this organization, and the use of green-certified chemicals and sustainable practices are part of the standards developed by HGSC. There are three (3) levels of certification, Gold, Silver, & Bronze. This area is integral for us meeting the standards. 

Overall, the use of green-certified chemicals and sustainable cleaning practices aligns with our district’s principles of environmental stewardship, health and safety, and social responsibility. By incorporating these practices into cleaning operations, our goal is to create cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable learning environments for present and future generations. 

Krause: For me, this is critical because I have the experience and understanding of seeing how much better sustainable products and practices are or can be than traditional products and methods. For me, the biggest struggle is having the support necessary and need for more experienced and knowledgeable team members. I can’t be the only one with the experience and understanding. 

Boyd: It is very important as I feel as if everyone has a responsibility in using the most sustainable products and practices because we all work and live in this world. Sustainability preserves our planet and natural resources like water and air. 

How has the renewed focus on indoor air quality (IAQ) impacted your cleaning programs and how are you responding? 

Archuletta: We recently switched all our gym seal products from oil-based to water-based to be compliant with newer VOC requirements in our state. This was a large programmatic shift with a significant increase in not only the labor necessary to complete gym floor sealing, but also the costs of doing so. 

Eichman: The focus on IAQ has had a significant impact on our cleaning program, prompting our shift towards more comprehensive cleaning strategies and the adoption of technologies and practices aimed at improving IAQ. Overall, the renewed focus on IAQ has prompted our district to reevaluate our cleaning programs and implement measures aimed at creating cleaner, healthier indoor environments. By prioritizing IAQ and adopting initiative-taking cleaning practices, our district can enhance the well-being and productivity of students, staff, and visitors alike. 

MacNeil: During the pandemic, we added air purifying machines to several areas — classrooms, daycare, etc. Our Energy Management team also changed the programming for the HVAC to have the air exchanges more frequent. After the pandemic was over, we decided to keep the air purifying machines in place in areas that have high occupancy or traffic. Facilities looked at each building to determine occupancy levels and adjusted the air exchange based on that. Even though the pandemic has been classified as over, the work-from-home model is still being used and not all buildings are back to full occupancy. 

Krause: Really, in my area, the biggest thing we’ve done is educate staff and residents on IAQ and on using sustainable products that don’t negatively impact our IAQ.  

Boyd: As far as the equipment type, we have used HEPA filters for some time. The biggest change we have noticed is managing the Air Purifiers and Humidifiers in the schools. One other area is seeking out chemicals with low VOCs. 

Following the pandemic, how have you adjusted your communication about cleaning to better educate and engage with your facility occupant community?  

Martinez: We take a proactive approach in our communication and education of our staff, faculty, and community. Before we introduce any chemicals that we use for cleaning or pest control, we get the information to them through email, newsletters, faculty meetings, one-on-one conversations, and we post on our district website. We provide information on the chemicals that include third-party testing and any certifications such as green-certification and EPA registrations. The reason why we took this approach is because it allowed us to get in front of the concerns that we knew were going to be coming. It also reduced the questions on what we were using. We found this approach to be very successful. 

Archuletta: We have several initiatives, but an important one was the development of an Infectious Disease Outbreak plan. It was created prior to COVID that came to use when covid began, and we have adjusted it since. We especially have revised our protocols on how we respond to pathogen discharges in classrooms. When we have an episode, we require the students and teachers to leave the classroom while we address the bio incident with one-minute contact cleaners. We also do so knowing that pathogen discharges, such as stomach matter, can spread droplets several feet when disturbed during the cleaning process. Between the potential to circulate droplets in stomach matter and the aggressiveness of one-minute contact cleaners, students are not allowed to return until after the chemicals have dried and the air has cleared. 

Krause: I’ve communicated more often about our cleaning program and the benefits of sustainable products and equipment. I’m also very vocal about what didn’t work to my supervisors and my campus partners, including our environmental or safety offices. 

Boyd: The district provides information for the community, students and stakeholders on the website that communicates the cleaning activities of the Custodial Services Department. There are also times an Administrator may request that I come and speak at an event or to the students. The one essential piece is the custodial team is present in actions and response both internally and externally. 

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Scheduling and Training on Cleaning Standards in Schools