BRADENTON, Fla. — Multiple staff members of the Manatee County School District tested positive for COVID-19 over the past few weeks, pushing the district into high gear to clean and disinfect before students return.
"Unfortunately with events in our district this summer, we've had practice but I think that's given us a leg up to make sure we're ready when students come back," said Todd Henson, the Director of Maintenance, Operations and Central Distribution for the Manatee County School District.
The district is moving forward with plans to open for in-person classes, despite other districts discussing the possibility of a full online start.
Henson says staff members have been training with specialized equipment and proper personal protective equipment to clean schools and offices that were affected by positive COVID-19 cases. The district has already purchased one electrostatic sprayer for deep-cleaning and has two more machines on the way.
"We use an EPA labeled virucidal. One of the methods to deliver it on a large scale is an electrostatic sprayer. We go into a building with trained staff that's wearing the correct PPE and fog that area. The electrostatic machine charges it so that it sticks to surfaces and has a good bond," said Henson.
The district has not been able to hire additional custodial staff to help with cleaning and disinfecting efforts, so they're creating a whole-team approach.
"We're looking at this as a total team effort between custodial staff, instructional staff and other staff at our facilities. This is just something that's going to be necessary since there's no way we can put a custodial staff member in every classroom or every wing," said Henson.
Cleaning supplies that don't require gloves or PPE are being distributed to teachers so they can clean their classrooms throughout the day, before a custodial staff member does a more thorough cleaning.
Henson says a big part of making sure COVID-19 does not spread in schools this coming year is education about hygiene. He asks parents to have these conversations with their children: make sure they wear masks, wash their hands often and stay home if they're feeling sick at all.
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