Throughout 2020, we saw children across the country learn in ways like never before—virtual, in-person or a hybrid of both. Regardless of how your child experienced school, the top priority of school administrators, teachers, school nurses and parents remained the same—keeping everyone safe and healthy as we navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, we are facing the same challenge. As a parent you may be asking: How can I ensure my child returns to a safe and healthy school environment?
A recent PTA Learning Lab, hosted by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), looked to answer that question by bringing together school health and cleaning experts providing best practices, along with actionable advice for school staff and parents.
Committing to Clean as Part of a Daily Routine
School nurses are one of the first professionals who come to mind when you think of student health, but while they are trained to advise and enforce school health protocols, they cannot be solely responsible for student health. In fact, 25% of schools don’t have school nurses at all, while only 40% of schools have full-time nurses, according to the National Association of School Nurses. School nurses need support from those also engaged in the eco-system of the school. That means other school staff and parents.
Whether your child has already gone back to in-person learning or their school is in the midst of planning for re-opening, it’s important for you to reinforce good hygiene habits at home. Incorporate handwashing into your daily routine at key moments, like before a meal and after using the bathroom. If you’d like to get more directly involved with helping your school, reach out to find out what their needs may be. You could help by printing guideline posters or organizing a fundraiser to purchase cleaning supplies.
Where, When and How to Clean
While cleaning and hygiene are vital components to killing bacteria and viruses, that doesn’t mean we need to be cleaning everywhere, all the time. To effectively and safely clean and disinfect there are three things to keep in mind:
- Where to be cleaning
- When to be cleaning
- Best practices for cleaning
When it comes to prioritizing areas to disinfect, focus on frequently touched surfaces. They are the surfaces that are touched many times throughout the day.
Frequently touched surfaces include:
- Desks, chairs and tables
- Door handles and knobs
- Cabinets, lockers, and bookshelves
- Light switches
- Shared school supplies
- Classroom electronics
- Faucets and drinking fountains
While many of us may feel like we are washing our hands 24/7, there are key moments throughout the day when we should be either washing our hands or using hand sanitizer.
- Before every meal
- After using the restroom
- After returning home from school or a public place
- After touching a frequently touched surface
The goal when it comes to hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting is to effectively and safely kill harmful germs to keep us all healthy. In order to do so, there are a few simple best practices that we should all keep in mind in addition to when and where we are cleaning.
- Read the label of each product before using
- Never mixing cleaning chemicals
- Open doors and windows for ventilation, when possible
- Store all products away and out of sight of young children
The Future of Health and Hygiene
The pandemic has reminded all just how essential cleaning and hygiene is to our health, but that doesn’t mean they go out the window once COVID-19 is under control. So, find what works for your family, sing a song, make handwashing a game or hang up posters as helpful reminders. Keeping up with everything that we have learned and implemented over the past several months will help to ensure a clean and healthy future for us all.
To learn more, check out the learning lab Commit to Clean–How Hygiene is Critical to Healthy Schools or visit CleaningInstitute.org/SchoolHealth for helpful cleaning and hygiene guidelines and reminders for home and school.