Custodial services emphasize sanitization as students return

As an HISD plant operator at Field Elementary, Maria Santana has always worked hard to keep her school clean and safe. When students return to campus on Oct. 19, she’ll work even harder to do so.

As part of enhanced cleaning procedures, HISD custodians are required to target high touch surfaces every hour. This includes continuous sanitization of sink faucets, handrails, and desks using a host of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting methods on an hourly, daily, weekly, and even emergency basis.

“We know how to clean,” Santana said. “But now it’s going to be about the details. Hitting those high touch areas like doorknobs.”

Custodial crews will be split into staggered shifts with two teams working mornings and nights. Day shift crews will safely balance routine cleaning and extra sanitization efforts in hallways and restrooms. Night shift crews will do heavy cleaning in classrooms and other areas after students and staff are gone.

“We won’t go into the classrooms to clean while students are in there unless it’s an emergency or a special request because it would be disruptive to the students,” said Facilities, Maintenance, and Operation Senior Manager Barry Taylor, who oversees HISD’s custodial work.

Night crews also are tasked with deep cleaning closed schools after a positive or presumptive COVID case is reported. The crews use electrostatic disinfectants — HISD owns both sprayer and fogger devices — to disinfect the facility. Like the name suggests, these disinfectants work like static and cling to germs to eliminate them on contact. One classroom could take as little as two minutes to disinfect.

“We’re doing everything possible to make sure everyone is safe,” Taylor said.

Additionally, daily checklists will be posted outside restrooms that indicate when it was last cleaned and sanitized. In elementary schools, where younger students are more likely to touch their faces, restrooms will be treated with extra care, Taylor said.

As outlined in the HISD Communicable Disease Plan, all teachers and students must wear masks and classrooms have been stocked with cleaning kits, which include gloves, masks, sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and two plexiglass sneeze guards.

“With all the extra equipment, supplies, and staff that we have, I do think we’re ready,” Taylor said.