Managing IAQ expectations expands beyond HVAC systems and into cleaning practices. For example, many contaminants linger in the air, including viruses, bacteria, mold spores and allergens, but so do VOCs (volatile organic compounds). You must be aware of what is being used to clean. Are you adding to the VOCs in the room with the chemicals or processes that are in place?

As mentioned earlier, theatrical cleaning practices (such as excessive frequencies) that cause more harm than good need to stop. The use of harsh disinfectants does not make the area safer for use. In many cases, it makes the room worse for IAQ. Remember, smelling a fragrance doesn't mean that the room is clean. In many cases, you are masking issues and leaving the room unsafe. This is even more of a concern when it comes cleaning rooms that kids will be spending a lot of time in.

One of the challenges I've dealt with since the onset of COVID-19 has been resetting the expectations of the custodial department. The idea of "cleaning for health" versus "cleaning for appearance" always comes up. Two key points I have had to make are: Tackling high-touch points is more critical than a well-mopped floor; and cleaning needs to be seen (shift to day-time programs instead of coming in after hours).

Transitioning cleaning workers out of graveyard shifts has been nothing short of amazing. The recognition that has been given to the custodial department because people now see the effort that they put into keeping everything clean is remarkable. To be noticed and treated as part of the school community puts a spring in the step of our custodians. It's probably the greatest silver lining of the pandemic when it comes to our workers.

In the end, whatever programs you have in place, outline those practices and policies upfront for everyone to see. Yes, there will be some questions on how or why you are doing something, but it is far easier to deal with those directly than not sharing how this works.

For example, after 22 years in the field, it took COVID-19 for someone to ask how many times a day we exchanged the air in the building. How often do the custodians clean flat surfaces, and what are they using? Is it on the approved List N? The answer to all these questions is simple: That information is on the district webpage.

Christopher Raines is the Director of Administrative Services at Cosumnes River Community College, one of the four colleges of Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento, California. He has spent the last 20 years in custodial/facilities maintenance, 16 of those in a leadership role. Chris also serves on the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges Steering Committee and is a strong advocate for sustainable cleaning practices.

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Sharing IAQ Policies With Occupants