Is Your School Safe for Re-Entry? How CARES Act Funding May be Able to Help

It’s that time of the year again, back to school. In an almost post-pandemic world, the back-to-school season feels much different. Amid the typical busyness and excitement that encompasses the start of a new school year, some parents are experiencing an unusual feeling — fear.

Many parents are concerned about the overall safety of school environments. And for good reason. How do parents really know that the schools are free from the risks of infectious diseases and other environmental challenges?

Sending children back into schools can be daunting for parents when considering the risks of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Surface and air transmission throughout school facilities is an area of interest, not only to parents but to faculty and staff. In a recent assessment conducted by Bobrick Washroom Equipment Co., half of the facility managers surveyed indicated that the cleanliness of surfaces and materials in restrooms were among their greatest concerns. Other areas of consideration included the health and safety of building entries, exits, and hallways.

Proper infection prevention cleaning practices are essential in the fight against disease transmission. Knowing when and how to properly clean, disinfect and sanitize surfaces, as well as understanding the distinct differences between these unique processes is paramount to school safety and wellness. Training and proper standards are key, but how does an institution develop them and what type of quality control processes are required?

Training and Certification Opportunities

Acquiring building certifications and accreditations focused on health and wellness can help schools ensure the highest standards for cleaning and disinfecting are implemented and maintained. Unfortunately, many are unaware of such accreditation programs. 88% of facility professionals surveyed by Bobrick were only somewhat or not at all familiar with building certification standards and systems.

Bobrick encourages the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation Program and the U.S. Green Building’s LEED for Green Buildings Certification. GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation provides training and protocols leading to certification letting building patrons know that best practices are in place.

Allynt Solutions’ CEO Peter Henson said, “GBAC STAR accreditation alleviates parent and staff anxiety and heightens peace of mind.” Allynt specializes in improving environmental health of commercial, government and institutional buildings and spaces, the foundation for optimized wellness, productivity, and regulatory compliance. “Above and beyond, it provides facility ownership with assurance that they are providing the safest environment possible.”

Complimenting the GBAC STAR accreditation is the U.S. Green Building’s LEED for Green Building Certification. LEED, which also focuses on sustainability and reducing a building’s environmental footprint, can help practitioners improve indoor air quality by reducing pollutants, allergens and other harmful particulates that circulate throughout schools. “By creating these healthier spaces, schools can decrease absenteeism and overall stress loads on teachers, administrators, students and parents alike,” Henson continued.

CARES Act Funding Can Help

In March of 2021, Congress allotted $13.2 billion through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for K-12 schools. Funds must be used by September 2022. According to an article by FutureEd, the law allows twelve uses of CARES Act funding. Training staff on the best ways to sanitize and minimize the spread of infectious diseases in schools is an allowable use of funding. Developing processes and procedures to improve preparedness and response efforts is also allowed.

The Education Department poses questions to consider when assessing potential uses for CARES Act funding. Some questions are:

• Does the use of funds prevent, prepare for, and respond to Coronavirus?
• Will the use of funds aid in returning students to the classroom?
• Is the use of funds reasonable and necessary?

“There are a lot of K-12 facilities that have received CARES funds but who have not yet figured out appropriate ways to utilize them,” Henson said. “Minimizing the transference of illnesses has always been an issue for schools. Transmission of colds, flu, pink eye and more profound disease such as Meningitis can be minimized with GBAC STAR and LEED accreditation.”

Baseline Assessments by Allynt

As third-party consultants, Allynt is available to conduct baseline performance assessments of K-12 facilities to determine if schools are compliant with EPA and OSHA standards. Allynt is sensitive to CDC recommendations in the fight against Coronavirus, other infectious diseases, and local/regional conditions. Peter explained: “receiving GBAC STAR accreditation or LEED certification is no small undertaking. But Allynt can help. “Allynt can audit all processes, products and practices related to cleaning and disinfecting and then design, build, educate and train staff. After that, certifications are achievable and maintainable.”

Peter Henson, CPMR, C.C.E., CSBA, AAP is happy to talk about assessing your facility and meeting the Sept. 2022 CARES’ deadline. Contact Peter for an infection prevention assessment today by calling 888-243-1256.

 

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