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Sanitizing the schools
Custodians learn new methods to keep classes COVID free
Mattie Lively Elementary School head custodian Anthony Davis performs his daily sanitizing and disinfection routines on Friday, May 15. While faculty and staff are still working in the building, Davis and his crew frequently touch up touchable surfaces. Once the schools empty out for the summer, a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning -- including the HVAC system -- will be performed and maintained, according to Davis. "My goal is to make sure everyone at Mattie Lively is safe." - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Hand washing, cleaning, sanitizing — words that make their way into every conversation in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bulloch County Schools is keeping those words in the forefront, too, and all custodians are working meticulously to ensure every elementary, middle and high school is ready for the safe return of students and staff.

Just a short time after all state public schools were ordered to stay closed for the rest of the 2019–20 school year by Gov. Brian Kemp at the beginning of April, the process began to completely sanitize and disinfect all school buildings in the Bulloch system.

Mike Copeland, the school district’s warehouse and custodian supervisor, said he immediately began researching what product would be most effective for sanitizing and protecting against coronavirus.

“A product named Hyperfect #5 is the recommended product, and we already had that in our arsenal of disinfectants,” Copeland said.

Haskins, the company that provides cleaning and sanitizing products to the school system, came to the county to provide training about the proper way to apply Hyperfect in relation to the virus.

“We were already using Hyperfect in the schools to clean areas in the bathroom,” Copeland said. “But we didn’t use it in the concentration before that we’re using it now. The dilution is what’s different.”

The training was held on one day, but to comply with social distancing and small numbers gathered at one time, the training was conducted three times in three locations — in Portal for schools in that area, at the transportation and bus garage on Simmons Road for schools in the Statesboro area, and at the bus garage behind Southeast Bulloch High School for schools on the south end of the county.

Head custodians for each school attended the training and then brought the procedures to the remainder of their staffs. Armed with a cleansing plan, the teams went into action to sanitize every part of every school building in the Bulloch system.


The cleaning process

Anthony Davis, head custodian at Mattie Lively Elementary, supervises a staff of five at the school on Debbie Drive in Statesboro.

“We started high, going down low, and we cleaned every touch point in the entire building,” he said. “Every surface that you can touch — doorknobs, light switches, paper towel dispensers, desks, push bars, tables — any touch point, we cleaned it.”

The team practiced social distancing, working in different areas of the school, wearing gloves and masks.

“Bathrooms, AC vents, cleaning filters, walls, floors — everything.”

The procedure involves spraying Hyperfect, diluted more strongly than in its pre-COVID formula, on all surfaces and then letting it sit for 10 minutes. After that, every surface is wiped dry with special microfiber cloths.

Even the cloths used for wiping require a specific method.

“We wipe everything down with the cloths, and they can be flipped eight times to get the most use,” Davis said. “You fold the cloth a specific way, and refold to use eight times. The cloths are then washed and dried, we have machines here, and ready to go again.”

That procedure took days to complete, and then each custodial team began the process of stripping and rewaxing all the floors. A normal procedure for the end of the school year, the waxing took place weeks in advance, due to empty school buildings.

Davis, who is a 12-month employee, will work throughout the summer, cleaning the entire building in the same Hyperfect manner as the first time.

“I’m Mr. Clean,” he said. “They’ll be no germs on the first rug when they come back to school. From the time you walk in the door, you’ll be safe. When the team comes back at the end of summer, we’ll disinfect again. Everybody will be safe when they walk in the door.”


Missing hugs

Davis, who takes great pride in the job he’s done for 16 years at Mattie Lively, said he has one worry when the students return.

“The kids love us so much. We get these hugs every morning. They call me ‘Mr. Anthony.’ I get more hugs than you can imagine. The possibility of no hugs? That’s gonna be the hardest challenge of all.”

The thought of no hugs may have Davis concerned, but he’s not worried about the sanitation part.

“I’ll make sure the building is just right. I know it will be clean, because I went through it.”

Copeland said the school system will be prepared, having already ordered the necessary cleaning and sanitizing products like plenty of Hyperfect #5 and microfiber cloths, and an order for every classroom in the system that will include gloves, tissues, masks and hand sanitizer.

“We feel confident with what we’re doing that we’ll have a good hold on this COVID,” Copeland said. “With what we’re doing and what we’ve ordered, we’ll be ahead of the virus as much as we possibly can.”

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