No doubt training non-cleaning staff to use standardized cleaning procedures and products district-wide is a huge responsibility for facility cleaning staff — and one that requires buy-in from all stakeholders involved. To ease the process and ensure the program’s success, Walker recommends schools keep it simple.

“Pick one product and stick with it,” he says. “If the concern is disinfection, pick a simple, broad-spectrum disinfectant and have them use the same product that the custodians are using.”

At Albuquerque Public Schools, Dufay empowers teachers to keep their classrooms clean by equipping them with COVID-19 kits — a plastic tote on wheels filled with disinfectant spray, paper towels, wipes, hand sanitizer, masks and more.

“Before we even opened schools, we created 6,000 to 7,000 teacher totes for every classroom,” he says. “They’re large enough for teachers to take care of any issue they want to take care of, such as wiping down a horizontal surface or cleaning a door handle.”

In addition to the totes, Dufay provides each teacher with an instructional card — a checklist of what, how and when to clean — that serves as a quick reference. Additionally, teachers have access to training videos as well as one-on-one training when necessary.

Typically, wiping down desks between classes and emptying trash are the most common tasks performed by teachers and students in cooperative cleaning programs. Salt Lake City School District’s plan is to have faculty and students spray and wipe down desks throughout the day — a task that will save custodians a significant amount of time.

To simplify the process and ensure that it is done correctly, Martinez advocates using paper towels instead of cleaning cloths. This reduces the chances of cross contamination.

Faculty and staff at Provo City School District use either cotton cloths or paper towels due to the sheer number of schools in the district — 18 in total. To help ensure that soiled cloths aren’t reused, custodial services at the district make it as easy as possible to replenish supplies.

“We have central stations in all our schools with 10-gallon containers labeled ‘fresh cloths’ and ‘used cloths,’” Hawkins says.

Fortunately, schools that are implementing cooperative cleaning programs for the first time don’t have to go it alone. Networking with neighboring schools can provide a wealth of information and ongoing support.

“Be open to other districts,” says Martinez. “Find out what they’re doing — what works, what doesn’t work and what struggles they’re facing.”

Custodial managers that implement successful cooperative cleaning practices often find that the benefits of the program extend well beyond classroom walls. Teachers, students and administrative staff develop a newfound appreciation for custodial services and become active and willing participants in keeping their schools clean.

Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Facility Cleaning Decisions.

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Cooperative Cleaning Helps Schools Reopen