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COVID-19 Strikes at School Staffs


By Dan Hounsell Emergency Preparedness

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the challenges facing maintenance and engineering managers in the nation’s schools. From enhancing sanitizing procedures and restroom retrofits to upgrading HVAC systems that curtail the spread of airborne pathogens, few areas of their facilities have been unaffected. Beyond the bricks-and-mortar impact, managers also are wrestling with the pandemic’s impact on department staffing.

Across the United States, the deaths of school employees have torn at the fabric of the school experience, taking the lives of teachers, principals, superintendents, janitors, coaches, a middle school secretary, a security guard, reports KTLA. The losses have forced school boards to make hard decisions of whether to keep classrooms open and have left students and staff members grief-stricken.

Early research suggested that children are unlikely to contract or spread the coronavirus. But Laura Garabedian, a professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that research was conducted during lockdowns when children were home and testing wasn’t being done on those with mild or symptomless cases.

The pandemic is also presenting ongoing and frustrating challenges for schools’ front-line maintenance workers just weeks after many regions began loosening restrictions, according to the Times-Herald in Vallejo. Calif.

“I’m really getting sick of this,” Santa Clara janitor Ricardo Cruz said Sunday. “It’s complicating everything. We have work, but it’s double the work. We have to basically chase people around while they are putting their hands on everything. It’s exhausting.”

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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