Connecticut School District Shares How It Successfully Manages School Cleaning During the Pandemic
The Unger team has been to many schools during the past year, collaborating with facility directors to implement the most innovative school cleaning equipment and tools to help take cleaning to a higher level. The Plainville School District in Plainville, CT stood out as one of the best cleaned, most prepared school districts in the country. Scott Martin is the Facilities Director for the Plainville School District, starting his career as a second shift custodian in 2003 and promoted in 2015 to be Facilities Director.
We talked to Scott the other day to see how he managed his school cleaning program so successfully.
When asked how he and his department handled the onset of Covid in March 2020, he stressed the following factors as instrumental to their success:
- Preparation. “We always had issues with the flu,” Scott said. “We spared no expense to make sure we had the tools we needed to succeed at combating the flu in our schools, and when COVID-19 came, we already had the necessary operating procedures and tools in place. It came together easy for us.”
- Great Relations with Vendors. “I have some great vendors I work with, and they understand my needs and make me a priority. We stayed in constant communication with them, and I make it clear what products I buy through them and which I do not. I aim to be as fair as possible. Its about keeping an open dialogue and making sure they know to be honest and fair with me in return.”
- Great Teamwork Within the Department “Managing cleaning needs at the onset of the pandemic was a team effort with purchasing, finance, and the administration. That teamwork helped us identify our needs and get the funding from the CARES act very efficiently,” Scott said. “We always operated as a team even before the pandemic, which made things a lot easier. Everyone plays a big role in custodial operations, ” he added.
Many Connecticut school systems, including Plainville, were at full re-open mode starting in August 2020, which presented challenges to the custodial department. They had to clean touchpoints multiple times per day, stay extra on top of restroom cleaning, and train the staff and the teachers on how to properly clean and disinfect.
How did Scott and his team manage it all so successfully?
- Cleaning Documentation. “Document everything that needs to be clean, how often it needs to be cleaned, and when: not just for your staff, but for the teachers as well,” said Scott.
- Bringing in Part-Time Help During the School Day. “We had success bringing in part-time help just for the middle of the day to address the common touch points,” said Scott. “It is always difficult to ask your guys to step up and do more, on top of what they already do. Bringing in outside workers helps them stay fresh to tackle their existing workload with the extra effort required to keep the school disinfected and sanitized.”
- Reminding Staff of the Importance of Their Work. “I try to thank them and remind them that what they do is important. I tell them that, without them doing the job that they do, we would not have the ability to open schools safely. That helped them stay motivated to disinfect and clean to the standards we needed.”
- “Ultimately, what mattered was that the staff’s designated areas were cleaned to the necessary standards. If we were not getting complaints, and everyone was happy, then I was happy. But along with that, it teaches them accountability, which is very important in cleaning.”
Scott plans on keeping most of these school cleaning protocols in place even after the pandemic subsides: cleaning touchpoints multiple times per day, staying on top of restrooms, and cleaning areas frequently that were not always cleaned, like locker rooms and gym areas.
When asked what lessons from the pandemic he would impart onto others Scott responded:
“Trust your team and staff, listen to them. Ask for help. Vendors are a big key, have good, fair, and honest communication with them.”