Jamee  |  
It’s what’s inside that counts

Reducing the risk of exposure to infectious disease in school buildings begins with educating staff, students and your community on how to properly clean and sanitize. Becky Baumer, GMAE’s director of interior design, guides K-12 leaders on steps to implement in their district plans, which includes hand hygiene considerations and disinfection methods.

Hand hygiene

From several sources, soap and water handwashing is still the recommended method for cleaning for children. If that’s not possible, then hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used to be effective. The risks and warnings on bottles of hand sanitizer to “Keep out of reach of children” mostly is primarily there to discourage drinking or ingestion. 

Medical professionals recommend not using sweet smelling hand sanitizers that might attract kids to try to drink the liquid or lick their hands upon use. Also, young children should only use a small pea-size amount and rub their hands until they are dry. There are a couple brands that have a foam instead of a gel to try to reduce the amount that kids use is one pump, but those foams can be difficult to find in large quantities. Proper education on the product and how to use it seems like the most logical route. If kids have sensitive skin, they should bring their own hand sanitizer or use soap and water.

There is a type of alcohol that is not recommended to use, and the FDA recently issued warnings about – methanol. These should definitely be avoided and removed from use.  See article here to learn more: https://bit.ly/3eqXY87

If schools are using typical bottles of hand sanitizer (in lieu of a wall-mounted dispensers), there are also products that allow the hand sanitizer bottle to be locked so a student couldn’t grab it and take too much or ingest it.

To learn more on proper hand hygiene planning, visit the CDC web page, “Cleaning, Disinfection and Hand Hygiene in Schools – a Toolkit for School Administrators.”  

Cleaning products

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a printable infographic that highlights a six-step process on how to use disinfectants safely and effectively:

Step 1: Check that your product is EPA approved
Step 2: Read the directions
Step 3: Pre-clean the surface
Step 4: Follow the contact time
Step 5: Wear gloves and wash your hands
Step 6: Lock up, keep lids tightly closed and out of reach of children

EPA also has a list of cleaning products that are effective against coronavirus. You can access the list by clicking here: https://bit.ly/3jXuwHJ

Many of these are regularly used products that school districts might already have on hand if they check their current stock. A concern and caution I want to stress is that most of these on the list are fine for surfaces you typically find in school buildings, but if a school district is considering using any type of bleach solution to clean with, I recommend that they look into the materials and surfaces they are applying it to and verify the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. Many materials will be damaged with continued use of high concentrations of bleach and or alcohol.

Becky Baumer is Garmann/Miller’s director of interior design. A graduate of Indiana University and a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Accredited Professional (LEED AP ID+C), she consults with school districts on how interior form and function enhance academic performance.