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Consider an alternative approach to school restroom cleaning

September 19, 2010
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I spend a lot of time on high school campuses in and around where I live in upstate New York — certainly more than the average adult who isn’t involved with teaching kids how to read, write and do arithmetic.

In my spare time when I’m not putting together CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine or helping to produce CM e-News Daily™, I officiate high school sports.

It’s not uncommon for me to be at middle school or high school sporting events — soccer, basketball and softball — four or five times a week from when school opens in September until it closes for the summer break in late May.

Whether you refer to us as officials, referees or umpires, we make regular use of the schools’ facilities to change into our “working gear.”

After a game, we often make use of a school locker room to grab a hot shower (yes, sometimes the water IS actually hot).

And, when nature calls, we also make use of a school’s restroom.

So, I think it’s safe to say I am a credible source when it comes to reporting on some of the deplorable conditions that exist in some school locker rooms and restrooms around here, and probably in the rest of the country.

On occasion, the word filthy comes to mind, but even that characterization isn’t strong enough. The term well-maintained doesn’t even enter into the picture, in many cases.

It’s common to see books, clothes and toilet paper strewn about, dripping water and mold in shower areas, rusty, dented dividers and stall doors in restrooms, as well as creative graffiti strategically placed at eye level.

These are the same locker rooms and restrooms your kids use (or at least try to use) during the school day. They are the same locker rooms and restrooms your hard-earned tax dollars go toward cleaning and maintaining.

What’s the answer?

Too often, it’s a case of throwing more money, chemicals, equipment and time at the problem.

Then, when that doesn’t work, in-house cleaning and maintenance directors and the custodians they supervise simply throw up their hands, neglect settles in, and only the most basic cleaning and maintenance services are provided.

But there is a different answer out there.

Tom Keating, founder and coordinator of Project CLEAN — a national project that has worked to improve public school restrooms for the past 10 years — offers an alternative approach for in-house facility directors to consider.

Keating proposes that facility directors and school administrators work to change attitudes and behaviors, rather than simply throw money, chemicals and staff at the problem.

What Project CLEAN attempts to do is change the attitude of the students who use school restrooms as well as the attitudes of the custodial staff, facility director and administrators about the importance of well-maintained facilities.

Can you imagine a student writing up a work order for the head of maintenance to fix restroom fixtures and then having that student following up to make sure the job got done?

Project CLEAN helped make that happen in a high school in Portales, NM.

You can bet the students, custodial staff and the facility director viewed each other with a different measure of respect after that project was completed.

It’s an interesting approach. Take a minute to read about how Keating’s Project CLEAN might be able to help you keep your restrooms clean and well-maintained in this month’s Facility Focus.


Send comments or thoughts on this topic or any other article that appears in CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine, to jfazzone@ntpmedia.com.


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