Thirty-two misters will be deployed in Dubuque Community Schools campuses this fall to spray desks, seats, sinks and other surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectant.
The equipment is expected to allow custodial staff to clean schools quickly and consistently in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, said Bill Burkhart, the district’s buildings and grounds manager. He said the Dubuque district spent about $100,000 to purchase the disinfectant misting equipment.
“It’s effective, and it’s quick, and it’s consistent,” he said.
The misters are among multiple steps that Dubuque public schools staff will take to increase the frequency and thoroughness of cleaning procedures to mitigate COVID-19 transmission when students return to school next month. Officials in other area districts say they will take similar steps.
“The most important thing is to try to minimize the risk of someone here getting COVID-19 or minimize the spread of it,” said Ron Beaver, maintenance director for the Southwestern Wisconsin Community School District in Hazel Green. “If we can keep everything clean as much as we can, we’re going to help do our best to slow the spread of the virus within the buildings themselves.”
In the Dubuque district, custodial staff will increase how often they clean commonly touched areas such as doorknobs and railings, and restrooms will be disinfected several times throughout the day. In the evenings, staff will thoroughly wipe down and disinfect classrooms with hospital-grade disinfectant, which the district already used before the pandemic.
In addition, “we’ve put up many hand-sanitizing stations so students and staff won’t be very far from a hand-sanitizing station, so they can use that throughout the day,” Burkhart said.
In Holy Family Catholic Schools, custodial staff will sanitize door and locker handles and disinfect restroom surfaces during class periods. Classrooms have been provided with cleaning kits so teachers can wipe down desks after each period, said Jeff Rusch, director of buildings and grounds.
“While (students) are in the classrooms, we’ll concentrate on the high-traffic areas that the kids use during the passing of class, and we’ll use our disinfecting solutions to basically clean all the high-touch areas,” he said.
Rusch said he is looking to hire an additional part-time staffer or two to help with detailed cleaning procedures at night.
“We want to make sure that when the staff, faculty and students return in the morning, that the building has been disinfected and cleaned thoroughly, and it’s safe and ready for them to occupy,” Rusch said.
Beaver, likewise, said he hopes he can hire an additional staff member to help custodial staff concentrate on performing deep cleanings each night, instead of once per week.
Hand-sanitizing stations have been installed throughout the district, and each classroom has been given a 700-count tub of disinfecting wipes. Staff also will make water fountains off limits but allow students to use bottle-filling stations for their own water bottles.
Tim Vincent, superintendent of the Galena, Ill., school district, said his district ordered a “substantial” amount of cleaning supplies to put disinfectant and hand sanitizer in every classroom. Officials also purchased four sprayers to apply disinfectant in each classroom and on buses daily.
Staff also will clean restrooms and lunchrooms multiple times each day.
“Everything is out the window — what we’ve done in a typical school year,” Vincent said. “We’ve really got to overall identify those high-traffic areas and ensure that we’re systematically cleaning those much more often than we have in the past.”
He estimated that the district spent about an extra $30,000 on personal protective equipment, thermometers and sanitization supplies to start the school year.
“We’re going to have to re-evaluate and make sure we have those supplies on hand,” Vincent said.
Officials from other districts said they also have incurred costs to improve their cleaning procedures.
Additional cleaning practices aim to provide students with a safe and sanitary building in the midst of a pandemic, Burkhart said.
“We’re going to provide good, safe, sanitary schools for the students and staff, and if they follow practices that the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other health advisers recommend, with the hand-washing and sanitizing and masks ... I feel pretty comfortable that we’re going to have a safe year,” he said.