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What process changes did you implement because of the pandemic that will now become standard practice?  

Biggers: The pandemic helped us to think outside of the box and forced innovation. Some changes that were made due to the pandemic — which are now standard practice — include: a new scope of work, sanitation stations, appreciation of our staff, hiring storage, Zoom usage and an increase in personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Brewer: Filters! Salt Lake City School District was using Merv-8 filters, which was a high bar when many of the HVAC systems were upgraded 20 years ago but isn't considered as high of a standard now. During the pandemic, the district switched to Merv-13 filters and will not be switching back. While the Merv-13 filters more effectively clean the air, they also take a toll on the HVAC equipment. To address that, some equipment and updates to HVAC systems are planned over the next several years. 

Krause: I hope that re-examining staff tasks continues — understanding priorities and what can and cannot be accomplished based on staffing levels. 

Uresti: We switched to a color-coded microfiber cleaning program to prevent cross-contamination and mitigate the spread of pathogens on our campus. 

What pandemic processes did you find to be unnecessary and why?  

Krause: Disinfecting primary touch points — it was never about spreading the pandemic through touch, but people didn’t want to believe that (even once it became known). The product(s) we had been using are effective on the virus, but no health and safety personnel would accept it because it wasn’t on the Environmental Protection Agency’s List N. Switching to [List N] disinfecting products has caused damage to surfaces and set back sustainable practices by months/years. 

Brewer: The hygiene theater custodial teams were pressured to exhibit was an absolute waste of very limited staff capacity. The need to conduct excess cleaning and disinfecting for show stretched custodial resources thin with no real benefit. As a result, staff became burnt out and other regular maintenance tasks were not kept up.  

SLCD is seizing this opportunity to emphasize what it means to clean for health, not for show. The district is taking the valuable lessons learned during the pandemic to update the practices it had in place pre-COVID-19, drop the excess disinfecting that is not needed, and move forward with a program that focuses on cleaning for health to best protect and support its students and staff. 

Biggers: I think most of the processes we took were necessary, except maybe one or two. For example, the removal of some chemicals that are better cleaners. 

How have communication efforts of your department changed now that there is heightened awareness of cleaning among students, teachers/staff and parents? 

Krause: I think more people now understand how critical cleaning is, and I think more people are willing to help out in order to maintain cleanliness. 

Uresti: The pandemic has taught us to become more transparent in what we do. We used our department website to post our cleaning schedules and developed a list of frequently asked questions about our cleaning and disinfecting processes.  

Kerzie: I think it is great that students, faculty and staff have a newfound awareness and ownership of cleaning and disinfection in their facilities. Because building occupants are more concerned about the cleanliness of their facilities, they are taking more ownership and being more mindful of their surroundings by cleaning up after themselves.  

Communication has also improved. Notifications of COVID-19 exposure happen almost instantaneously to the Building Services Department through a program at UGA called “Dawg Check.” Also, communications, especially between our night and day shifts, have dramatically improved as there is more of a dependence on each other to accomplish all tasks. 

Corinne Zudonyi is the editor-in-chief of Facility Cleaning Decisions magazine. She has spent more than 16 years in the industry overseeing this publication, as well as its online resource,  

A bit more about each speaker:

Jodi Krause
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Assistant Director Housekeeping
Madison, Wisconsin
Jodi has worked in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Housing since 1999, overseeing cleaning and maintenance for both the day and night shifts in 29 buildings. She is actively involved in the department's sustainability programs and testing products for use throughout campus. 

Mervin Brewer
Salt Lake City School District 
Former Assistant Custodial Supervisor
Salt Lake City, Utah
Mervin recently retired from the district after working in custodial operations for 42 years. He continues to serve on the Healthy Green schools & Colleges Steering Committee, as national liaison chairman of the Utah School Custodial Managers Association, and hosts a YouTube channel dedicated to green cleaning in schools. 

Aaron Uresti
University of California-Riverside
Assistant Director of Custodial & Housekeeping Services, Facilities Services 
Riverside, California
Aaron has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial cleaning industry. He is currently responsible for leading a department of over 150 employees that clean approximately 6 million square feet of building space daily using sustainable products and methods. 

Gene Woodard, MREH
University of Washington
Former Director of the Building Services Department
Seattle, Washington
Gene recently retired from the University of Washington after 37 years. During that time, UW was one of the first higher education institutions to use Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) to validate cleaning procedures and was recognized with multiple green cleaning awards. He personally received the UW David B. Thorud Leadership Award in 2020, a UW Husky Green Award in 2017, and the William D. Joyner Achievement Award from IEHA in 2012. 

University of Georgia – Facilities Management Division
Todd Kerzie, Director of Services
Adam Hayes, Assistant Director of Services
LaRhonda Biggers, Assistant Director of Building Services
Athens, Georgia
Under the guidance of Kimberly Thomas, Senior Director of Services, the University of Georgia — Facilities Management Division advocates for green, healthy and sustainable cleaning initiatives. Kim and the departments she’s overseen have been recognized with numerous awards, as well as green cleaning, sustainability and recycling accolades from 2010 to today. 

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Top Cleaning Challenges in Educational Facilities