Within a year, all standards of living have changed. The enthusiasm of preparing our children for the back to school process is now overshadowed by dread. In addition to notebooks and pencils, face masks and hand sanitizer have become an essential school supply. To prepare for the return, parents and school staff need to work together.
Prior to reopening, it is best for school administrators to create a new cleaning routine. To know what needs to be done, it’s best to collaborate with the janitorial staff. The first thing to know is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. As the CDC points out, cleaning does not kill germs but removes them, minimizing the quantity. To kill them, you must also disinfect. So knowing this, the new cleaning routine should involve a two step process. The best way to ensure that your cleaning routine is effectively followed is to make a cleaning checklist. This will vary by facility, but you can follow this general checklist provided by Janitorial Manager.
Parents should support the efforts of faculty through reinforcing healthy habits like covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, hand washing, and not sharing cups, utensils and school supplies. Make sure you wash face masks and backpacks regularly and minimize fomites like toys or school supplies going to and from school. Maintain good communication with the teachers, faculty and other parents to be alerted on new cases. You can also help your children strengthen their immune system through stress reduction tactics and healthy dietary choices.
Many schools are implementing new physical distancing strategies like adding more lunch and recess periods as well as opening more building entrances to minimize congregation and increase physical distancing at the beginning and end of school days. If your child is a bus rider, try to drive them to school more frequently, if you are able. District buses should also be following a frequent cleaning schedule like this one. Some schools are even implementing a rotation of virtual and classroom learning to maintain social distancing. Kansas City schools are among many in taking these precautions . If as a parent, you still aren’t comfortable with in person learning, talk to your school’s administrators to see what accommodations can be made. And remember, the pandemic is affecting mental health as well. Ensure that both you and your children are practicing self-care.
--Elizabeth Carter, Office Manager at Country Club Janitorial
,As children return to school, keeping children safe and healthy is always on parents’ (and teachers’) minds. In the classroom, many teachers will be prepared with Lysol wipes to wipe down surfaces like clockwork. But what about outdoor surfaces like playground equipment? It’s not always thought of as a vector for germs, but a study from HomeAdvisor found that a playground’s high traffic areas, such as rock walls, baby swings and seesaws have approximately 9 million colony-forming units (CFUs) per square inch. To put that in perspective, that is 52 thousand times more bacteria than the standard household toilet seat.
Covid-19 and other coronaviruses (including the common cold) are no different and can be found lurking in swings and slides. Now that we are in the heat of summer, there’s a good chance high temperatures will destroy the virus. However, you can never be too sure, and, as discussed in my previous blog post, different surface materials have different dwell times. Plastic equipment like swings and tunnels take between 2-3 days without activity for all Covid-19 pathogens to die. Metal varies based off its type: lasting 4 hours on copper and only 2-3 hours on aluminum. Stainless steel, on the other hand, has a similar dwell time to plastic (~2-3 days). Wood surfaces are safest, as there absorptive abilities dry out microbes. However, as a hospital conducted research study indicated, the previous SARS virus (SARS-CoV-1), lasted up to four days in wooden surfaces.
So now that I have you worried, let’s talk about disinfection solutions. Prior to disinfection, you should always clean the equipment with soup and low pressure water from a garden hose, as pressure washers can damage the equipment's paint and surfaces. Prepared solutions of unexpired household bleach (the dilution ratio is here) or solutions of at least 70% EPA approved alcohol (as well as other EPA-registered household disinfectants) will get the job done. Be sure to wear PPE to prevent the spread of covid-19 and to protect yourself from inhalation of bleach solution. Never mix ammonia solutions with bleach, as this produces toxic chlorine gas). Ensure the solution maintains contact with the equipment for at least one minute. Then rinse with the low pressure hose and let it air dry prior to children playing on it.
Some communities have members or groups who volunteered their time to playground disinfecting initiatives. If you have the time and resources, this is something you might consider joining (or even spearheading). If you are as busy as many parents are, continue practicing social distancing precautions. Bring along disinfecting towelettes or hand sanitizer to the playground. It’s even a good idea to bring along a first aid kit to take care of any potential scrapes. Encourage children to wash their hands with soap and water after playing. This should occur for at least 15 seconds to be effective. Tell them to practice this in school as well, as should the practice of using only their own school supplies. Don’t be afraid to communicate with their teachers to ensure these proper hygiene practices are implemented.
There is a lot of unknown with coronavirus that parents and teachers have to be concerned about. But don’t fret: with playground equipment, there is an easy solution (pun intended).
There is always a sense of pride for the city and community for which you live. To show your love, you buy local. It seems obvious, but now is a more important time than ever to support your local small businesses. In this post-pandemic world, small businesses are really taking a hit. But there are more reasons to buy local besides supporting your local commerce. When you invest in your community, you are also investing in your own identity.
-Elizabeth Carter, Office Manager at Country Club Janitorial, LLC