What are the expectations of schools from their housekeeping staff? How prepared are they to return to normalcy? What is their approach towards new tech? Who do they depend upon to maintain hygiene? Four school principals tell us the situation on the ground.
Cleaning and sanitisation
Canvas International School, Jaipur is calling its students in two shifts. Its Managing Director Hema Harchandani said, “After the morning batch leaves, all classrooms are cleaned, mopped and sanitised before the next batch arrives. This process, which takes half an hour or so, is repeated after the second batch leaves.”
Hers is a pre-school. Since small children cannot be expected to understand all the rules of hygiene, pre-schools were always conscious about maintaining it. Now, they are even more conscious, and cleaning happens more frequently. For example, toys that were cleaned once or twice a week are now cleaned every other day.
Apart from classrooms, which are serviced after students leave, common areas like the reception and staff rooms need to be sanitised multiple times a day.
Indoor air quality
Most schools are unwilling to restart using their HVAC systems. In the absence of concrete air management solutions, they are throwing open classroom windows and relying on natural ventilation instead. No one knows how long this stopgap arrangement will continue; perhaps until all children are vaccinated.
Shivani Sahni, Principal, HRM Global School, New Delhi said, “We have invested in solutions to reduce touchpoints. Sensor-based taps, soap dispensers and hand dryers have been introduced on campus. We are also using sensor-based sanitiser dispensers for visitors. From now on, these will be the norm.”
Dr Jayshree Narayanan, Principal, Gokuldham High School & Jr College Mumbai said, “Along with the basic safety measures, technologies that decontaminate high touch points and purify classrooms, making them virus-free and clean, if made available at reasonable and affordable prices, will surely be welcomed by many schools.”
Prices may be a barrier to some. “Because new technologies like air purifiers and automatic fumigation devices are expensive, schools find it difficult to procure them. However, if they are cost-effective, they will surely be bought by schools like ours, which have a vast expanse,” Narayanan confirmed.
“If we can reduce the number of infections and the learning gap caused by the same, there will definitely be a worthy return on investment. We should not be penny wise and pound foolish,” averred Sahni.
Manpower: The backbone of housekeeping
Some schools have a completely in-house janitorial team, some have outsourced the job and some have a mixed model. Pooja Anjanikar, Principal, Orchids The International School, Navi Mumbai said, “We have a senior person to supervise the housekeeping team, who hires the other team members. The same goes for the security team. We have a single vendor across all branches. Since school buses are not yet being used, parents drop and pick up the children; to regulate this properly, we have increased the size of our security team”.
The size of the housekeeping team has also increased, said Harchandani. “We need more vigilance. A supervisor has to check if cleaning is happening properly or not. At smaller centers, 2-3 in-house team members are enough, while at larger branches, there is outsourced staff too”.
While security and housekeeping are the two main FM functions, Sahni believes they must be outsourced to two different service providers. Just in case one is faltering on the job, the other will notice and bring it to the attention of the management.
At present, only a fraction of students have returned to school campuses. With the double protection of vaccination and rigorous housekeeping, the entire student body is expected to return by the end of the year.