Custodian Behl Evangelista cleans a washroom at the Education Services Centre
Grade one students pull out their lunches onto their desks; grade five students sit in groups on the floor throughout their classroom working on technology-infused math projects; grade 11 students study at various work areas spread throughout their school. All of these activities are examples of daily occurrences in schools throughout the North Vancouver School District – and all of these activities are able to occur safely and comfortably thanks to the work of custodial staff. Over the past several years, many improvements have been undertaken to better serve schools with school cleanliness.
"Efforts of our facilities staff this year, and over the past two to three years, have been outstanding to better meet the needs of schools to keep schools clean, safe and conducive to learning," said Mark Pearmain, Superintendent, North Vancouver School District. "When we think of learning, we don't necessarily think of the importance of having tidy and sanitized spaces, but it is paramount that classrooms are clean and safe so that staff and students can focus on teaching and learning."
One notable change undertaken by the custodial department is the microfibre cloth project. This initiative has changed cleaning cloths from terrycloth to microfibre towels. The microfibre program has reduced the number of chemicals used in schools because it enables most areas of a school to be effectively cleaned with just water, as opposed to with potent, non eco-friendly chemical cleaners used in the past. To disinfect touch points, such as washrooms and desk tops, two eco-friendly cleaners are now used as well. This initiative has created a healthier and safer environment for students and staff.
Another benefit of the microfibre initiative is reduced environmental impact due to decreased waste. The laundering process for microfibre clothes extends the life of the towels to up to 10 years, reducing the frequency of replacement. When the microfibre towels reach the end of their life or are damaged, they are removed from the custodial inventory and repurposed as shop towels for the trades staff to use for painting and maintenance requirements. These towels are then recycled through a separate laundering process until they are no longer useable. The above process has almost eliminated the need to procure terry and shop towels, and related plastic and cardboard packaging they were shipped in. It has also proven to be more cost effective.
Many other enhancements to custodial services have also taken place. Updated duties and new duty sheets are examples of improvements that have been implemented. At the elementary level, time savings that have resulted from centralized waste collection (custodial staff collecting waste from centralized receptacles, as opposed to from each classroom) are being utilized to allow for daily detailed cleaning of desks and tables (whereas, previously, daily desk and table cleaning was wipe-downs and detailed cleaning occurred once a week). An example at secondary schools is additional detailed cleaning on Fridays, which includes floor buffing, interior glass cleaning and the cleaning of exterior entryways.
Custodial duty sheets have been improved by including site-by-site detailed cleaning requirements that have resulted from reviewing the geography of buildings to enhance the efficiency of cleaning routines. Duty sheets have also been created for professional learning days, with a focus on exterior entryways, mats, glass, litter, washrooms (tiles, sinks, glass), spray buffing floors, detailed gym floor cleaning, storage rooms, and high dusting. These updated duty sheets not only support custodial staff to do their jobs, but also allow school staffs to understand what they can expect from custodial services.
A newly created North Vancouver School District School Cleanliness Committee has also been established to support improvements in custodial services.
"The changes we have made to the way we service schools with their cleaning needs have really made a positive impact. We hear from school principals, teachers and education assistants that their spaces are much cleaner and safer now, which enables them to focus on their jobs of educating students," said Jim Mackenzie, Director of Facilities, Maintenance and Planning, North Vancouver School District.
"I want to extend a huge thank you to the custodial staff in our school district. Their efforts to listen to school needs, adapt processes to meet these needs, and execute these plans effectively is really making a difference. School staff have noticed and are incredibly appreciative," said Adam Baumann, President, North Vancouver Principals and Vice Principals Association.