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Sustainability

Implementing Innovation from the Ground-Up

September 19, 2010
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Mesa Public Schools, based in the city of Mesa, Arizona, is the largest unified school district in the state in terms of student enrollment. In a typical day, approximately 70,000 students and 6,000 staff members occupy over 100 buildings in the district, including elementary, alternative, junior high and high schools. At night, the custodial crew for the district moves in, covering over 9 million square feet with one objective in mind — the health and safety of all occupants.

To accomplish this end, Mesa Public Schools relies on research, testing and innovation from the Custodial Advisory Committee, a team of district custodians that know how to make the goal of green, healthy cleaning work in the real world.

Chuck Simonette, the director of custodial services for Mesa Public Schools, oversees the 495-member janitorial staff and helps implement recommendations from the committee.

"Our custodial advisory board has been in place for 10 years," says Simonette. "We look at the future of the industry. We look at equipment that provides better service to our customers and reduces labor and repair costs. We don''t want to add new chemicals or equipment, but replace the existing with ones that are more efficient and effective. That''s why we went with ProTeam Inc."

For years, the district used uprights and dust mops to cover a wide range of floor types. When the committee began to evaluate different methods and vacuums, they looked for options that would allow them to cover more ground with increased efficiency and effectiveness, while improving indoor air quality. They sampled several vacuums, testing for a variety of factors, including fit, weight, versatility and wand reach. Eventually, they decided on the ProTeam backpack vacuum, primarily the Super CoachVac® — the powerhouse of the commercial cleaning industry.

"In the beginning, it was a big change for some, but now it''s routine, flexible and easy," says Simonette. "Now, ProTeam vacuums are all we have, and we own over 200."

ProTeam backpack vacuums are designed to create enhanced suction to better capture dust. A powerful motor and suction-only construction pull even packed-in dirt from carpets and floors, where dust faces a unique Four Level® Filtration system that traps 99.9 percent of particles measuring one micron and larger — including dust mites, heavy industrial dust, pet dander, mold and most yeast and bacteria. For students and staff, less dust reduces asthma triggers and other health problems.

"We have fewer complaints on indoor air quality (IAQ), and we don''t have as many issues. That, in part, is due to the backpacks," says Simonette, also noting the switch the district made to microfiber mopping system and dust cloths.

The speed of the cleaning staff has also improved with the implementation of ProTeam backpack vacuums.

"We continue to track productivity," says Simonette. "We do time studies with our cleaning program, and backpacks cut floor cleaning time by about 20 to 35 percent compared to uprights and dust mops."

To keep up the efficient pace, Mesa Public Schools makes the effort to properly train staff from the start. Custodial staff are fitted for the backpack, and then trained on how to use it effectively, including proper lifting procedures and other details. When worn properly, the ProTeam backpack improves ergonomics and reduces body stress. A padded hip belt and molded back plate distribute the vacuum''s weight evenly to prevent strain and enhance mobility. Detail tools are also located on the belt, allowing a worker to easily switch from cleaning the floor to cleaning chalkboards, ceiling fans, blinds, upholstery and more.

One other notable upside has come with ProTeam vacuums: A remarkable decrease in repair and downtime. The filters are checked every night by the staff, and regularly replaced, but the maintenance has ended there.

"We''ve never had to repair one in six years. We haven''t even had to repair a motor," says Simonette. "Once, we had one that melted, but it wasn''t the vacuum, it was just placed too close to a generator."

Mesa Public Schools continues to look for innovative solutions to cleaning. They now use robotic autoscrubbers and are working to replace all paper products and chemicals with more environmentally friendly alternatives. The Custodial Advisory Committee is currently in the process of testing green chemicals. If ProTeam is any example, the decisions the committee makes will offer results that speak for themselves.

"I think the ProTeam vacuums are one of the best investments we''ve ever made," says Simonette. "They''re efficient, virtually maintenance-free, and save us time."

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