Cleaning Schools Amidst Budget Cuts

By Barbara Richter and Dave Frank

4 min read
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This past Fall, many U.S. schools began the year with some of the deepest budget cuts seen to date. According to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) report, “Surviving a Thousand Cuts: America’s Public Schools and the Recession” conducted in December 2010, more than half (52 percent) of the school districts surveyed deferred maintenance for the 2010-11 school year, and 60 percent anticipate doing the same in 2011-12. More than one-third (37 percent) reported that custodial services were reduced for 2010-11, and 45 percent anticipate even further reductions in 2011-12.

In its report, the AASA said, “… the state of the physical facilities of many schools has never been worse and promises to decline further,” adding that poorly maintained school facilities could essentially erode the quality of education in the schools.

While custodial services continue to see a decrease in resources, the responsibility of custodial service managers to maintain a clean, healthy and safe facility remains the same. Fortunately, in many cases, school cleaning on a budget is a manageable task, but it requires a reevaluation of procedures, processes and products to ensure maximum efficiency.  

Perform risk assessments 

Regardless of when budget cuts were made, how deep they were or even if they’re only a future possibility, custodial managers should be performing risk assessments to evaluate and determine what changes may be needed within a school cleaning program.  

 When performing a risk assessment, custodial managers should assign a risk to each area of the facility. High risk areas in schools include restrooms, classrooms and locker rooms. Low risk areas include hallways, offices and windows. Managers then assign the highest priorities and frequencies to the highest risk areas, ensuring restrooms and classroom surfaces are cleaned daily, for example.  

 By focusing on risk, custodians can increase their efficiency, keeping highly trafficked areas clean while protecting students and faculty from the risk of making contact with bacteria and illnesses. While high risk areas require more frequent cleaning, custodial managers still can find ways to reduce costs for school cleaning. 

 Reduce costs with multipurpose cleaning products 

The cost of daily deep cleaning and disinfection of restrooms can be reduced by as much as half by streamlining the number of cleaning products used. With just three multipurpose products, custodial staff can clean, disinfect and remove stains on restroom surfaces in a single step. 

 Multipurpose products simplify the cleaning process by reducing the number of products needed and the number of steps required. They can also reduce cleaning supply costs without compromising quality. Often times, because the cleaning process has been simplified, there is a reduced need for rework which translates to a reduction in product usage and labor time. Fewer products also allow for a simplified training program because workers only need to be trained to use a handful of products.  

 Multipurpose cleaners also can be used to effectively clean and disinfect classroom surfaces as well as offices and locker rooms. One area that is a direct reflection of the overall cleanliness of a facility and is often noticed by staff, students and parents, is the flooring. Keeping up the appearance of floors can sometimes be difficult, time intensive and costly for maintenance professionals, but the truth is that it doesn’t have to be. Taking time to focus on the proper floor care for a unique facility can translate into long-term cost savings and deliver a positive experience for those utilizing the facility.  

 Keep floor care costs down 

One way to keep floor care costs down is to reduce the need for frequent burnishing while still keeping floors looking clean and shiny. Using products specifically designed for this purpose such as the P&G Pro Line Floor Care System which has a line of products specifically designed for schools and universities can help achieve desired results. Pro Line ensures the stripper, finish and cleaner are formulated to work synergistically with one another, delivering superior results to extend the length of time between maintenance cycles.  

 The takeaway message here is that for the majority of education facilities, custodial budgets aren’t coming back any time soon. Custodial managers must continue to focus on creating efficiencies, while maintaining a clean facility that staff and students feel safe and comfortable in. The good news is that it is possible and custodians who work with their cleaning product supplier to help create effective programs will likely be the most successful. 

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