The transformation of the cleaning standards and systems in the Syracuse School District in Syracuse, NY, is representative of a national paradigm shift toward healthier schools. Cleaner school environments make for a more favorable learning experience for students, increased productivity for teachers and staff, and fewer complaints of illness, discomfort and allergic reactions.
For Syracuse, the transition started in 1995, as the district faced its eighth consecutive budget cut in as many years. To turn things around, the maintenance team turned to a Cleaning for Health® strategy that focused on productivity through specialized training and product/method standardization, leading to healthier buildings at a much lower cost.
The many cleaning tools and products previously used by the department were evaluated for efficiency and effectiveness. They cut down on chemical overload and began to utilize one of the essential technologies for the new program: the ProTeam backpack vacuum. When incorporated into a system, the ProTeam backpack achieves an average of 10,000 sq. ft. of high-efficiency cleaning per hour. With standard Four Level® Filtration and optional HEPA models, the backpacks extract and trap 99.9+ percent of particulates down to 1 micron in size, removing dust mites, dander, pollen and other asthma triggers from the environment.
The positive results at Syracuse were immediate. Schools were cleaner, student attendance went up and cleaning costs went down. A recent survey conducted in 17 of the 20 buildings now utilizing the Cleaning for Health system indicated that student attendance went up in each building.
"The rate was different in each building—from 2 percent to 1 percent to .5 percent—but according to our survey results, all of them were up," said John Melfi, Syracuse custodial trainer and coordinator. "And for every 1 percent increase in student attendance in the district, our school system receives $225,000 annually in state aid."
Now, Syracuse is striving towards the goal of implementing the program in all 42 schools. The district then hopes to establish a training center to provide intensive Cleaning for Health training for all new custodial employees.