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A study, recently reported by Bunzl, a multinational distribution and outsourcing company based in London, wanted to determine if more effective cleaning using three different cleaning technologies, could help reduce illnesses among school-age children, helping to reduce absenteeism.
The study was conducted in the Southview Public School, part of the Limestone School District, located in Ontario, Canada.
According to the researchers, schools are home to many harmful pathogens that can cause viral respiratory illnesses, coughs, colds, and influenza. “They are responsible for most of the absenteeism in K-12 schools, not only in Canada but in many parts of the world.”
The three cleaning technologies used in the test were:
- Microfiber cleaning cloths
- A No-Touch Cleaning® System developed by Kaivac
- Clorox’s Electrostatic Disinfection System.
It should also be noted that the researchers found an excessive amount of soil, often a breeding ground for pathogens, was being “walked” into the school. Because of this, “an [Kaivac] AutoVac was also brought in to the school to help custodial workers stay on top of the situation,” says Marc Ferguson, Vice President of Global Sales for Kaivac. “Quick cleans were performed throughout the day at entrances and hallways, helping to prevent soiling from accumulating.”
Along with determining if these products could help reduce absenteeism, the researchers also wanted to learn the following:
- If these systems, working together, could help reduce the time necessary to perform cleaning tasks
- If the use of these products improved cleaning effectiveness
- What the custodial workers thought of working with these three cleaning technologies
Five locations were selected in three different classrooms in the Southview school. A total of 40 different surfaces were tested before using the three cleaning technologies. This helped determine the amount of contamination on the surfaces before cleaning as well as establish a benchmark. Then the same surfaces were tested again after cleaning.
Among the findings were the following:
- The number of live bacteria, referred to as colony-forming units (CFUs) in the classrooms, decreased by 93 percent; this indicated that cleaning effectiveness improved significantly
- Cleaning times were reduced; one cleaning worker reported he could disinfect the classrooms “in a quarter of the time it used to take me.”
- Other custodians said the microfiber helped trap soils, preventing them from being moved from one area to another.
- Custodial workers using the Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning system, reported “it removes instead of spreads soils,” as so often happens when using mops to clean floors. It was also noted that the no-touch cleaning systems helped the custodial staff stay on top of soil build-up in the restrooms, which are some of the highest traffic areas in the building.
But did these three technologies help reduce student absenteeism? According to the researchers, the answer is yes. There was, in fact, a significant drop in student absenteeism.
Comparing the 2017/18 school year with the 2018/19 school year, during which the three cleaning technologies were used, there were “513.5 fewer absent days, representing a 15 percent reduction in overall school absenteeism.”
Further, Ferguson adds that the technologies, and most specifically the no-touch cleaning system, “helped keep clean ‘high-touch’ areas. This minimize the number of pathogens students could collect on their hands and then transfer onto desktops, keyboards, other surfaces.”
However, there is a bigger picture here to consider. The non-profit, non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, reports that school absenteeism does adversely impact student performance, based on their own and other studies.
“Among eighth graders, those who missed school three or more days in the month, scored between 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent lower on test scores (depending on the number of days missed) than those students who did not miss any school days.” 1
While we cannot depend just on more effective cleaning to improve student performance, adds Ferguson, ” it’s good to know that effective cleaning is certainly a step in that direction.”
1 “Student absenteeism: Who Misses School and How Missing School matters for Performance,” by Emma García and Elaine Weiss, The Economic Policy Institute, September 25, 2018