Delaware school district implements new cleaning protocols amid pandemic


Kamryn Drake

Custodian Jeff Hummel sanitizes tables in the main cafeteria at the end of 4th period lunch. The custodial staff has taken on extra duties with disinfecting high-touch surfaces due to the pandemic.

Kasey Wells and Olivia O'Rourke

Due to the pandemic, the Delaware City School District has made multiple changes to custodial procedures and workload in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 among students and staff.
“The biggest change is the nightly disinfecting, and then the disinfecting periodically during the day,” said Jason Sherman, Director of Facilities & Transportation. “[The custodial staff] disinfects door handles and disinfects restrooms and other…high touch surfaces, so that we can hit those about every two hours, every three hours, or so, and keep those as sanitary as we can.”
The district brought in extra employees to help with the increased disinfecting during the school day. Teachers also spray the desks and other shared materials in between classes. At night, the custodians disinfect those surfaces again.
The hybrid schedule and the online academy have led to a decreased number of students in the buildings, which has made keeping the school clean easier on the custodians.
“In [the] hybrid model, [we] have one third of the students that you normally have in the building, so [we] have a lot of space that’s going unused or being used very lightly,” Sherman said.
Another change that has been made is the extra cleaning help from bus drivers during the day. Because field trips and some extracurricular programs have been temporarily cut as a result of the pandemic, the bus drivers are able to assist with cleaning inside the buildings.
“We’ve been able to make up for the loss of work [for the bus drivers] by having them come in and help out during the day in the schools doing the disinfecting, which enables the custodians to focus on their main jobs as well,” Sherman said.
Similar cleaning is also happening regularly on the busses themselves. Sherman said that bus drivers spray all of the high touch areas of the bus between runs, like the tops of the seats, the areas around the windows, and the handrails. The windows on the buses also stay cracked to help circulate air.
The school district qualified for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which has allowed the schools to purchase new cleaning supplies, such as bigger sprayers and more disinfectant, to aid in the cleaning of facilities.
Over the summer, district maintenance staff spent time working on the heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems in the buildings in order to keep the school well-ventilated as well.
These changes made in the building to continue school safely have been under the guidance of both the CDC and the Delaware General Health District (DGHD).
“We have a weekly [virtual] meeting with the Delaware General Health District,” Superintendent Heidi Kegley said. “The DGHD provides us with important updates and guidance. We are extremely grateful for the relationship we have with the DGHD.”
Sherman said that district administration has received good feedback about these new protocols so far.
“The feedback I’ve received, personally, is that the custodians feel comfortable doing their extra work,” Sherman said. “The staff members and the students feel comfortable coming to school and working and learning in the environment.”
Many students are expressing positive feelings toward the new protocols.
“[The disinfecting procedures] do make me feel more safe and confident,” sophomore Robyn Gurujal said. “I know it doesn’t eliminate the virus completely, but knowing that the things I touch have been disinfected thoroughly before I use them makes me feel more secure.”
Many staff members have similar opinions as well.
“I don’t mind taking all of these extra measures because I know that it’s helping to keep everyone healthy, allowing us to be in school, which is the ultimate goal,” Spanish teacher Michelle Leasure said.
Sherman said that students can help the cleaning process by doing little things, like throwing away trash and pushing in chairs.
“Anytime students can clean up their own mess that’s a big help, whether you’re in a pandemic or not,” Sherman said. “All those little things help speed up the process of cleaning the building, and then keeping things clean.”
Once the Covid-19 pandemic begins to dissipate, Sherman said that he would like to keep some of these cleaning procedures in place to simply make the school a better place.
“If we can integrate them into our day, get used to doing them, and we can afford to maintain that level, it just makes for a cleaner environment in the school,” he said.