This time of year usually calls for a wave of spring cleaning ventures, but to limit the spread of COVID-19, school custodial customs have intensified.
For the past week, all across Logan City School District, custodians and school staff-turned cleaning crews have been working to clean and disinfect the school buildings according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Spring cleaning came early for us this year,” said Anthony Martinez, the head custodian at Mount Logan Middle School. “We were keeping an eye on the virus and ramped it up as soon as we could.”
LSCD Maintenance Manager Don Bell said the schools had already been gearing up for the cold and flu season anyway but once the threat of COVID-19 was recognized, new chemicals were ordered along with new protocols created to aid in clean up.
“The biggest difference between this and our routine cold and flu cleaning is the scale of it,” Bell said. “We hit every doorknob, every light switch etc. in the building, more than once a day.”
All public K-12 schools in Utah were dismissed for until at least May 1 under a “soft closure” — starting last week — in the hopes of slowing further spread of COVID-19. Martinez said his crew and others throughout the district are preparing for students to either re-enter the schools or for the dismissal to continue.
“Either way, the schools will be fully sanitized when the students come back,” Bell said.
According to the CDC website, “current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.”
The CDC recommends that the cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention.
Cleaning and disinfecting refer to different sanitizing practices. Using a detergent or soap and water accomplishes the level-one practice of cleaning. Disinfecting uses chemicals after cleaning and is a deeper, level two-type clean.
“I have learned so much about the classifications of different chemicals through this process,” Martinez said. “Everything had to get sanitized but with the right chemical.”
Martinez said this situation has helped him and his staff use the same chemicals they have always used in a more effective manner and it has changed how they will clean things going forward, even after this situation has passed.
The school is still open for parents and students to pick up homework packets or other belongings, but Bell said there has been an extra level of attention paid to people’s actions to ensure proper sanitizing.
Since his cleaning staff doubled over the past week, as teacher’s aides and hall monitors have changed roles to help in cleaning efforts, Martinez said by Tuesday evening they will have completely sanitized the whole building and everything in it at least once.
“We clean anything we know that has been touched,” said Marta Monterrosa, who is part of the cleaning crew at Adams Elementary School. “I know about viruses and I know how to take care of them.”
She explained that it takes a longer to clean if you are trying to kill the viruses and sometimes it takes getting the surfaces wet for up to 15 minutes before wiping them down.
“There are a lot of people working really hard to clean everything,” Monterrosa said.
Following a deep sanitizing of the elementary schools last week, there is less cleaning happening currently at those schools. For Logan High School and Mount Logan Middle School, public access is limited and the schools will close up toward the end of the week as the deep-clean wraps up.
Bell said the whole process has been a two-prong approach.
“One, we want to limit the spread, and two, we are hoping to alleviate some anxiety along the way,” Bell said. “Luckily we were able to get out ahead of the virus and have discussions early on.”