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Schools Experiment as COVID-19 Pandemic Rolls On


By Dan Hounsell Facilities Management
students on outdoor classroom

What lessons will facility managers of the future learn from the struggles and experiments taking place in the nation’s K-12 school districts as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on? The question arises as districts seek balance between onsite and remote learning while working to improve the health and safety of schools. The results have been mixed, so the efforts continue.

One key component in the process is the health of teachers, some of whom are less than eager to return to classrooms. For example, 58 percent of Connecticut educators do not feel safe in their school buildings and are concerned about contracting COVID-19 while at work, according to the Hartford Courant. The survey of more than 4,000 educators also reported that 87 percent of educators believe schools should shift to online-only classes in anticipation of a post-holiday spike in new coronaviruses cases.

The pandemic also has highlighted the risks facing school custodians, so one district is showing appreciation for the work custodians do cleaning and sanitizing schools. Community High School District 218 in Illinois recognized its custodians as “Life Savers” by giving them bags of Life Savers hard candies, according to the Chicago Tribune. Day custodians regularly apply  disinfectants to high-touch surfaces and clean eating areas after each lunch period. The night crew disinfects the building every evening and uses electrostatic sprayers for infection control.  

Schools also are experimenting with measures to keep students at schools and do so safely. So with temperatures plummeting, a smaller number of schools — even in some of the nation's most frigid climes — plan to keep it going all winter long, with students trading desks in warm classrooms for tree stumps or buckets, according to News 18. In New Hampshire, for example, students are still outside at James Faulkner Elementary School in Stoddard after building an outdoor classroom by clearing a patch of woods and adding a fire pit, rock seating and hammocks.

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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