This week, students of all ages returned to schools across the country. Over the summer, the main thing on everyone’s mind, whether parent or teacher, has been how to keep children safe in schools and prevent the spread of the virus wherever possible.
Schools have had to ensure extensive preparations ahead of their reopening. New measures include social bubbles for classes, segregating different year groups and staggering start and finish times for different classes. Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of confusion over the different initiatives schools should be using, particularly regarding face coverings, for example. However, one piece of advice that has always been clear is that schools must ensure they have adopted enhanced cleaning procedures. But what does that mean?
We work with a leading school in Wales to ensure they adhere to the strictest hygiene standards, and here are some of our top pieces of advice for ensuring stricter cleaning procedures.
1. Regularly sanitise the school
A professional team will understand the difference between cleaning and sanitising and will know how what steps to take to keep you safe.
There is a difference between cleaning and sanitising an area. While a quick wipe clean might make everything look and smell ‘fresh’, it won’t remove all the bacteria or pathogens that are typically found in a school. Sanitising is a much more methodical process, with a specialist team working systematically to sanitise the premises. This will be done using an EN14476-approved chemical; this neutralises any airborne pathogens, it also eliminates pathogens on surfaces like desks, walls, floors, furniture.
2. Keep cleaners visible
Ensuring cleaners are seen and heard is hugely important in reassuring students, teachers and parents that their wellbeing is the top priority. Previously cleaners or janitors would often work early in the morning or last thing in the evening. Now a more regular cleaning programme is required throughout the day, and their presence during school hours shows the school is taking the coronavirus seriously and is doing everything in its power to try to halt its spread. This not only helps bolster the school’s reputation in these difficult times but, it also gives students and staff alike a much more positive mindset towards the return to school and their safety during school hours.
3. Use the right products
Whether you supply your cleaning providers with products, or if they use their own, it is vital that the chemicals they use are suitable for the job. We use specialist chemicals that have the European standard for testing and evaluating viricidal activity in the medical area. This product, EN14476, has been approved by Public Health England for the treatment of COVID-19. Quite simply, if you don’t use appropriate products, your efforts will be wasted, so this is incredibly important.
When wiping or washing surfaces it is recommended, especially at the moment, that disposable cloths are used. However, if these are not available to you, then it is crucial to ensure cloths are colour coded for specific areas and regularly washed to avoid cross-contamination.
When using these chemicals in school, make sure they cannot be accessed by children and are not used near them. When using them, ensure there is adequate ventilation.
4. Ensure all areas are cleaned
Typically, many areas can be forgotten about or missed in the daily clean. Make sure items like microwaves, light switches, desks and door handles are all cleaned and maintained more frequently than usually.
Pay special attention to staff rooms and common rooms as these are well used areas. Many people don’t realise that frequently used touch points, such as tea bag bins, are dirtier than our toilets. Other places like handles and stair rails are also high-risk areas, particularly in schools, so ensure these are disinfected regularly throughout the day.
As with office environments, computers and keyboards harbour many bacteria so these should be sanitised after every use.
5. Promote hygiene education for everyone
To ensure children are taught the latest advice on hygiene, it’s vital that all teachers and staff are aware too. Regularly remind them of best practice, so that they in turn can pass this onto children. If they haven’t already done this, schools should build in time to daily routines to ensure regular hand washing breaks, particularly in younger children. Everyone has a part to play in helping to slow the spread the virus.
What about the worst case scenario?
No matter how hard you work to keep your school COVID-secure, children and teachers do go home and these alternative environments may harbour the virus, and it may happen that an asymptomatic individual brings the virus back into school the next day.
If a case of coronavirus is identified, the most important thing is to evacuate the class of the affected individual as soon as possible. Then, COVID-19 Rapid Response teams must be brought in to completely decontaminate. For a fully effective and high-quality decontamination effort, it would be recommended that the whole site goes through deep-cleaning, not just the areas where the affected individual had been present.
During the decontamination process, specialist cleaners start by establishing a ‘safe zone’ covering all fire and smoke alarms, remove all phone handsets from their bases and then, using state-of-the-art machinery and an EN14476-approved chemical, they fog the entire area which neutralises any COVID-19, or other, pathogens.
On completion, the classroom is safe to use again after an hour meaning that classes can resume and no place in the school becomes out of bounds for unaffected students. And for peace of mind, the EN14476-approved chemical is effective against Coronavirus for 30 days.