Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools Consortium and IEHA offer new guide and top 10 ways to promote healthy schools

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by Shane Henson — January 25, 2012—The nonprofit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS) Consortium and the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) has released Clean and Healthy Schools for Dummies, a guide that promises to be as practical and easy to read as its name implies.

Included in the guide are ways concerned citizens and anyone working within a school can promote and support healthy schools. The top 10 approaches are:

  1. Recognize Who Manages the “Health” in a Healthy School: Who are the principal health managers of a building? Learn to appreciate the critical role played by the facilities manager, custodian, cleaning manager, and others involved in the cleaning and maintenance of a healthy school. Help others to also appreciate this by making sure that support for cleaning and maintenance and healthy schools is a central focus of community dialogue. Start a dialogue that informs school or university administrators and other interested people. Doing so is the first step toward decisions that will establish healthy schools in your community. No single tactic works for every community, but consider also the steps below.
  2. Get Health on the Agenda of Your Parent-Teacher Association: Ask to have students’ and teachers’ health put on the PTA or similar university agenda. Use the information from Clean and Healthy Schools for Dummies to help stakeholders understand the role of maintenance and cleaning for good health.
  3. Recruit Key Players from the School Staff: Give a copy of Clean and Healthy Schools for Dummies to the facilities manager and/or cleaning department manager and ask them to join the discussion and evaluate their ability to provide healthy schools with the resources available to them. Offer to help by taking a team approach with teachers, administrators, facility cleaning and maintenance staff, and the school nurse (in K-12 settings).
  4. Make Health Organizations Part of Your Effort: Get support from local health organizations or agencies. Ask representatives to come to a PTA or appropriate university meeting and talk about chemical contamination, infectious diseases, and the best ways to provide healthier indoor environments in the schools.
  5. Recruit Support from Parents, Community Leaders, Faculty Members: There is always resistance to change. So solicit support from parents and other stakeholders and community members for better indoor environmental quality in schools.
  6. Make use of Healthy School Guides and Resources: Make use of available resources such as the Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools from the Healthy Schools Campaign, the operations and maintenance section of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools’ (CHPS) Best Practices Manual, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) excellent Tools for Schools Communication Guide.
  7. Form a Healthy School Task Force: Form a healthy schools task force from interested parties to jointly develop a strategy for improving the health of the school or university facilities. Establish a Web site to keep the rest of the community informed, and send out letters to stakeholders outlining the problems and strategies, and soliciting their involvement.
  8. Write Articles for Local Publications: Write short articles about healthy schools and the goals of your initiative for the local newspaper and other publications. Frequently report on meeting agendas and progress towards healthy schools for the newspaper. Include quotes from various involved parties.
  9. Press for a Report Covering the Impact of Current Facility Conditions on Health: Invite supporters to go to school board meetings dealing with budgets, green school programs, health, cleaning and maintenance, general planning, and so on. Argue for giving a high priority to cleaning and maintenance programs. Suggest that the school board assemble a task force to research the impact that current facility conditions have on student and teacher health and issue a formal report with recommendations for improvement. Get local press coverage when the report is released.
  10. Make Your Voice Heard at School Board Meetings: If you can’t establish a broader program, suggest that the school or university system start with a single facility or campus as an experiment. Develop a program in that facility and include measurements of results (consider using principles of Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) from IEHA). Report on reductions in chemical and microbial contamination, and determine whether those reductions relate to sick absences. Get students involved in hand washing and general good hygienic behaviors. Interview students and parents on their attitude to the program and include interview results in the report. Use the results to argue for expansion of healthy school programs to other facilities.