At the time of this writing, the country continues to set records concerning the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, many of us in the facility cleaning field have either already welcomed back faculty and students, or, at least, hope to do so again in the coming weeks.

While it’s natural to want to make facility occupants feel safe and secure during these challenging times, it is also important to maintain proper cleaning protocols. We need to resist getting drawn back into the kinds of theatrical cleaning techniques which can impact indoor air quality (IAQ). Instead, we need to make sure that all the steps we have taken to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 are easy to understand and readily available, which also help to impart the guiding principles of sustainable cleaning practices.

Schools across the country have varied in their reopening strategies. Some opened completely, closed, and reopened again. Others have remained closed. Then there are districts like mine that have moved very slowly toward fully reopening. Throughout these shifting reopening efforts, we have all experienced varying degrees of anxiety, in some cases more than once.

In August, my district brought back “impossible-to-convert” and “difficult-to-convert” classes. Examples of these include auto, welding, construction, chemistry labs, and some art/theater type of instruction spaces.

Thankfully, we had a wealth of information about the steps necessary to ensure that all possible safety measures could be put in place. For the most part, reopening these spaces went well, but it also meant more people would now be present on campus. As the campus population grew, naturally, so did the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and questions about indoor air quality.

Talking about IAQ is fun when interacting with someone who works in the field, because all the acronyms make sense. But for individuals who don’t truly live and breathe HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), it can be easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations.

This is where you, as the facility executive, will save the day by managing the expectations of both the end users and facilities personnel. Here are a few steps for success.

Be Transparent

Step one is transparency. Make sure that everything the department is doing is featured on the organization’s website. That way, those who want to know about how many times the system is doing a complete air exchange or what type of air filter is being used can have access to that information.

Directing people to the website means that you don’t get stuck in the weeds about the details that you may not be fully aware of. This level of transparency also helps ensure that your partners on the facility side are aware of the concerns. It will help them get ahead of the request by knowing, for example, which building needs to come online first because a particular type of class will be taking place there.

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