NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- When custodians in the City School District of New Rochelle wipe down desks and maintain floors, all the indoor surfaces are cleaned "beyond green." The District has virtually eliminated the use of conventional cleaning chemicals from the interior learning environment.
Instead, custodians use solutions created from water, a water-softening agent (a type of salt), and electricity produced from Orbio os3 generators in each of the schools.
That enhancement - among the greenest of green practices - is one way that environmentally friendly practices have been implemented in the two years since the district took its maintenance and custodial care in house. Better training through this simplified method, a re-allocation of staff and high-performance accessories and equipment that creates a simplified, healthier cleaning program have saved the district money - up to $60,000 annually in chemicals alone - while creating healthier learning spaces.
"We are using a revolutionized, simplified cleaning process for all of the school buildings," said Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administration Jeffrey White. "That saves resources that can now be allocated to education while offering students safer, healthier places to learn."
The custodial staff, under the direction of Assistant Director of Facilities Keith Watkins, has implemented a new program that uses high-performance cleaning accessories and tools such as water-saving microfiber cloths. They use vacuums with specialized scrubbers and floor pads with Orbio-generated solutions, rather than wet mops and dirty buckets. These practices are greatly improving air quality. Another recent enhancement is the addition of spray applicators with an electrostatic function that helps the disinfectant adhere to even hard-to-reach areas.
Even as students, staff and visitors enter the school, they cross new entrance walk-off mats that have been shown to remove 80 percent of outdoor dirt, preventing it from entering the school in the first place.
"The district now is ahead of any other by implementing such processes in every school," said David Migden, principal of Sterling Sanitary Supply, a District consulting vendor. "Floor surfaces are cleaned with auto scrubbers that use electrically charged, ionized water, which cuts the tap water needed by 70 percent. Other surfaces are cleaned with the solutions generated by the Orbio os3." These measures eliminate 95 percent of conventional cleaning chemicals, saving the administrative costs of buying the chemicals along with the expense of transporting them. It also cuts the need to store the chemicals in plastic containers that would be introduced to the recycling and waste streams. The solution also eases the impact on the aquatic environment.
The os3 generator process creates two solutions - an everyday, multi-purpose-surface cleaner and a hypochlorous disinfectant used twice weekly as part of a districtwide disinfection program. A color-coded system - blue for the multi-purpose solution, yellow for the disinfectant - creates a simple, unified concept. That makes for a seamless transition when a custodian is transferred or promoted from one building to another.
"By simplifying and standardizing our cleaning solutions and tasking, we have become more productive and efficient as a team," Watkins said. He oversees 87 full-time custodians, 40 hourly employees and 50 substitutes. The staff maintains 10 school buildings plus the space leased for the Campus Alternative School and District offices in City Hall, about 1.5 million square feet in all.
Watkins took a fresh look at staffing when he came to the District and tailored the crew in each school to fit the size of the building and the tasks they require. He required the custodial supervisor in each school to make several rounds of his or her building during a shift while performing duties.
"While they're performing their duties, they can check on the rest of the staff to be sure that the expected cleaning procedures are being performed correctly and on schedule," he said.