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Westmoreland County Public Schools’ head custodians at recent training sessions. Attending were Ricky Wilkins, Maintenance Supervisor; MMS, Bruce Nelson; WDE, Patricia Jackson; Deputy Superintendent Cathy Rice; Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry; CES, John Tate; and W&L, Ricky Wilson.

Westmoreland County Public Schools’ custodians have begun a series of trainings to prepare themselves and protect school employees and students from spreading the COVID virus. Working within the guidelines and regulations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state requirements, head custodians and their staffs will be using new equipment and new disinfectant strategies in the upcoming year.

The initial session included Maintenance Supervisor, Ricky Wilkins and the four Head Custodians; W&L Ricky Wilson; MMS Bruce Nelson, WDE Patricia Jackson; and CES John Tate. Division staff attended also in the first of five weeks of meetings hosted by Mr. Al Ciarochi from Prince William County Public Schools, Greenville, SC. This session focused on communication, how to clean and disinfect, and the necessary equipment to clean and disinfect. To conduct the deep cleaning that is expected in this pandemic, custodians need equipment that will allow them to disinfect surfaces quickly. The recommended CDC disinfectants have a virus kill-time of sixty seconds or less when applied with electrostatic sprayers.

There will be an additional price tag to keep schools clean and disinfected using CDC recommendations. Westmoreland County Public Schools will be investing over $60,000 in new custodial equipment and tools. The trainings are essential to utilizing the equipment correctly, safely, and effectively. When added to the $40,000 that the school system is spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students, Westmoreland County Schools is making a major investment in safety equipment and materials for the employees and students. During the meeting Cathy Rice, Deputy Superintendent, was quoted saying, “The Division is committed to doing what it takes to keep staff and students safe.”

The training on Friday, July 17 also included presentations by Chuck Saylor and Bain Stewart, Greenville County Schools and Paul Boney and Taylor Morris, LS3P Associates LTD.

This introductory session gave the custodial staff guidelines and clear directions on how to clean a school under the current conditions of COVID-19. The presenters expressed that with the increased expectations, time working can be saved by having the right equipment and scheduling effectively. The presenters zeroed in on creating safer environments by implementing facility cleaning plans that prioritized high-touch areas.

The presenters stressed that communication is so very important, especially now.  “Families need to develop a level of trust that comes by knowing what occurs behind the scenes as the district prepares for the return of its students and staff.”

It was stressed that “the number one issue for the upcoming year is disinfection.”  At the conclusion of the training, Dr. Michael Perry, Superintendent, gave each head Custodian a copy of “the Guidance from the CDC for Cleaning and Disinfecting”. He stressed that this was the custodian’s bible for the upcoming year. “There will be a few changes in how we do business. Every school will have its own cleaning and disinfecting plan that will be designed for the uniqueness of each school. Principals and other staff will be made aware of each schools’ plan and will be integral to the implementation of the cleaning plan.”

New this year will be isolation rooms located in every school. Every school will have trained personnel conducting temperature checks. If an employee or student has a temperature, they will be placed in the isolation rooms. They will remain in the isolation rooms while parents are called and until someone arrives to pick them up. Employees will be free to drive home. After each individual has left the isolation room, the custodians will be expected to clean and disinfect the room.

Dr. Michael Perry told the WMLCPS custodians that according to feedback from the Health Department and their insurance carrier, “We must do what we say we are going to do. Therefore, we will start right and keep doing it right.”  Each of the school’s head custodians are charged to do a thorough examination of each and every touch point in their schools and create a plan to address each of these areas. “Custodians know the building better than anyone else.  Now, we are learning the best strategies to enhance the current routine cleaning and disinfecting services.” Wilkins will collect and monitor the plans throughout the year.  

Westmoreland County Public Schools is fortunate to have long-term custodians who are committed and dedicated to their schools and its students and staff. They have embraced the challenge of cleaning their buildings and they look forward to letting their pride show.

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