How to keep the flu from spreading in your school

Young boy at school sneezing into his arm

Last year’s flu season was the longest-lasting in a decade, with flu activity sticking around for 21 straight weeks. That’s why taking measures to prevent the virus from spreading through your school this year is more critical than ever.

Between 5% and 20% of people in the United States get the flu each fall and winter, according to the National Institutes of Health. When students and teachers are forced to stay home with the flu, those missed school days can have a huge effect on student outcomes – and the budget.

Last flu season, the virus began to ramp up in November and peaked in February, which means now is the time to make sure your school is ready.

Here are five steps SSC takes to keep school environments clean and flu-free:

Students in a classroom

1. Be prepared.

SSC has a special cleaning checklist just for cold and flu cold season, which puts an emphasis on cleaning high-touch areas like chairs, desks, door handles, soap dispensers, toilet seats, water fountains and light switches.

By using the Clorox Total 360 electrostatic spray system, which has been shown to decrease absenteeism rates significantly during the germiest seasons, SSC maintains a safe environment for students, staff and parents.

Prepare in advance, make a checklist and focus on what areas your students touch the most. That will help you get everything in place to keep the virus from spreading.

2. Encourage students and teachers to stay home when sick.

Some people may try to be a hero and come to school sick, but it’s important for anyone who gets the flu to stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever to avoid spreading it to other students or teachers.

You could also encourage students, teachers and staff to get the flu shot by offering tips on when and where to get it or even offering vaccinations on campus for staff.

3. Healthy habits = less contamination.

Most experts believe the flu is primarily spread by droplets made when infected people cough and sneeze.

Teach students and staff to cover their mouths with a tissue or bent arm to prevent those droplets from spreading.

4. Emphasize the importance of hand-washing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, using a paper towel to dry hands and using that same towel to turn off the faucet.

Post informative signs in your bathrooms and consider incorporating hand-washing breaks into student and staff schedules.

5. Do more than just clean – especially those drinking fountains.

Sometimes a general cleaning spray won’t cut it. SSC often uses a disinfectant that kills 99.9% of germs, and also has policies to prevent cross-contamination.

Did you know? The germiest places in schools aren’t in the bathroom, like most people think, but water fountains, according to Dr. Harley Rotbart, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Colorado. It’s the perfect spot for germ spread since kids put their mouths on the stream of water or on the fountain itself.

[Related: The germiest places in schools.]

Educate your kids to run the water a little first and then drink, or encourage students and teachers to bring their own water bottle – and not share.


We can help your school stay flu-free and germ-free. Reach out to learn more about our services and how you can keep your learning environment clean – and healthy – with SSC as your partner.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

How to make sure your school is ready for summer break

Summer break is here. Now what?

Summer is just around the corner, and your students are probably already dreaming of vacations and afternoons spent by the pool.

The next few months may be a break for students, but things are really starting to heat up for your facilities staff.

Summer break is a crucial time for your custodial, maintenance and grounds management programs. It’s a chance to accomplish important tasks – like painting, deep cleaning and major repairs – that can’t be done during the school year when the halls are filled with students, teachers and other staff.

Want to make sure your school is ready for summer break? Here are three tips.

Continue reading “How to make sure your school is ready for summer break”

Take a green approach to school cleaning

Given to Emily by ssc in May 2014

Cleaning products are necessary to keep your school free of germs and dirt. But using the wrong products could have a negative effect on the environment and the health of your students, teachers and staff.

Buildings where green cleaning products are used experience lower costs and reduced chemical use. These products are safer and deliver high-quality results with minimal environmental impact.

Going green in your school can also educate workers and students alike so that environmentally conscious decisions will continue beyond the campus and contribute to a cleaner, healthier world for everyone.

Here are a few tips for making sure the products used in your school are safe for students, staff and the environment:

1. Look at the label

If you see a Safer Choice, Green Seal or EcoLogo label on a cleaning product, you can feel better about using it in classrooms and schools. Products with these labels have been reviewed by reputable third parties and are considered effective and safer for the environment and human health.

2. Rethink paper and liners

Massive amounts of towel and tissue waste end up in landfills, and their production and processing have a huge environmental impact. To reduce it, consider following the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for bathroom tissue (20%-60% postconsumer fiber) and paper towels (40%-60% postconsumer fiber).

Also, look for can liners containing recycled and postconsumer content. These small steps can go a long way in lessening the environmental strain of these products.

3. Choose the right equipment

In addition to the cleaners you use, pay close attention to the equipment used in the school.

Microfiber dusters not only clean more effectively than other products by capturing dust rather than pushing it around, but they also promote green cleaning (and reduce cost) because they don’t require constant replacement.

Also, energy-efficient vacuums and floor-cleaning machines that use HEPA filters can improve indoor air quality, which could lead to increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.

4. Go green, not only to clean

Going green doesn’t need to stop with cleaning products. Look for Safer Choice or other eco-friendly labels on products such as athletic field paints, odor removers, graffiti removers and hand soaps used in your school.


Not sure where to start? Click this link and browse product options that meet the Safer Choice standard.

Follow these tips and start doing your part to ensure a healthy planet for years to come and a healthy learning environment for your students, teachers and staff.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

5 ways to keep your school healthy during allergy season

It’s officially spring, which means warmer weather and blooming flowers. And also the sound of sneezing.

Those blooming flowers and leafy trees mean pollen and other allergens are in the air, and the sneezing, watery eyes, itchiness and stuffy noses can have a huge impact on students and faculty at your school.

Spring allergies vary based on where you live, but there are some basic strategies you can use to help minimize their effects at your school.

Here are five ways your school can help keep everyone healthy during allergy season.

1. Motivate students and faculty to stay hydrated.

“Studies have shown that when you’re dehydrated your body produces higher histamine levels, and that drives allergies,” according to Neeta Ogden, an allergy specialist. Encourage people to bring water bottles to school and take breaks as needed. And don’t forget to keep your water fountains clean, especially the spigot – they are often the germiest places in schools.

2. Avoid allergens by staying inside.

As tempting as it may be to enjoy the nice weather, don’t take your students outside for class when pollen counts are high or when it’s windy. The pollen will not only bother those with allergies, but will also enter the building every time you crack open a door.

3. Use a microfiber cloth and mop when cleaning.

Microfiber cloths and mops trap the allergens instead of letting them loose into the air. Don’t forget to also regularly sweep or vacuum. If you have rugs or carpets in classrooms, make sure they get cleaned often. People walk in and track dust or pollen. The cleaner your school is, the less likely these allergens are able to stay inside.

4. Crank up the cold air in classrooms.

The air conditioner can help keep pollen out by filtering the air. And make sure to keep windows closed at all times. That way the pollen will stay where it belongs: outside.

5. It’s not just about pollen. Keep your school free of mold.

It’s not just pollen you have to be worried about. Mold can also cause problems in school buildings. Schools accumulate mold on ceilings, around windows, near water fountains, on walls and bathroom tiles, in books and on carpets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Make sure you are reporting any water leaks, humidity level changes and moisture problems to your facilities staff. You can manage mold in your school by conducting regular maintenance and building inspections, as well as by controlling the moisture.

To make sure your school is prepared, track the allergy forecast for your area here. This way you can make sure your school is doing the right things to keep students and faculty healthy during the times when allergies are at their peak.


For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

3 easy ways to encourage recycling in your school

Schools produce a lot of waste. Think of all the paper, plastic bottles and paper towels a school can go through in just one day.

That’s why robust recycling programs in schools are critical in driving change. Recycling not only reduces the amount of waste in landfills, but also conserves natural resources, saves energy and creates jobs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While recycling has increased in recent years, the rate is still just 35 percent.

Is your school doing enough to promote recycling? You can start by helping students, teachers and staff see the impact recycling can make on the planet and showing them how easy it can be. Here are three ways you can improve recycling in your school.

1. Show your school cares.

Schools help to shape habits that carry on to our adult life. When you add recycling into the daily lives of students and teach them what recycling really is, it will help them carry it into the future.

Natalie Walker, a sustainability coordinator with Compass Group, suggests raising awareness by hanging posters with fun facts or statistics related to recycling in hallways and in the cafeteria. That helps spread the message and show how much recycling can make a difference to the environment.

Then set goals for your school, like reducing paper use by 10 percent or reducing the amount of hand towels purchased by 20 percent. Make it fun by promising an award if students help your school meet these goals.

2. Customize recycling bins and add color.

Set of recycling bins Set of recycling bins

Recycling can be confusing. Inconsistent labels can make it hard for even the most well-intentioned person to put waste in the right place.

Properly labeled bins with pictures and examples of what belongs in it make it easy for teachers and students to do the right thing. A recent study on recycling posters by the University of Toronto found that the addition of images on recycling bins doubled the amount of waste diverted from landfills.

3. Don’t just recycle paper – reuse it.

Millions of trees are cut down each year to make paper. With education being so paper-intensive, finding ways to recycle and reduce the amount of paper used in schools is crucial.

In addition to a recycling bin, set up a box for reusable paper so students can reuse sheets that have only been used on one side. An elementary school in California saved 100 reams of paper using this method, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

Incorporating these practices into your school can help turn students into lifelong recyclers. By doing so, you can help decrease pollution levels, save trees and help save the environment.


For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

The 7 germiest places in schools

What’s the germiest place in your school? Your mind might immediately jump to the bathroom – specifically the toilet – but that’s not even in the top five. (In fact, a cellphone carries 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Crazy, right?)

With cold and flu season in full swing, it’s important to keep high-touch areas clean to prevent the spread of germs and illness. So what areas of the school should you be paying the most attention to?

Here’s where microbiologists found the most germs in two Michigan elementary schools as part of a study for NSF International:

  1. Water fountain spigot
  2. Plastic reusable cafeteria tray
  3. Faucet
  4. Cafeteria plate
  5. Classroom keyboard
  6. Toilet seat
  7. Students’ hands

That’s right – the study found more germs on average on a water fountain spigot and keyboard than on a toilet seat. (The study only tested surfaces that the elementary school kids regularly come in contact with at school, which is why you don’t see cellphones on the list.)

But knowledge is power. Now that we’ve identified the germ magnets, we can focus on how to keep them clean and prevent the spread of germs.

Wash your hands

What do most of the things on that germ-filled list have in common? They’re high-touch areas (or they’re the things that do the touching, in No. 7’s case).

One way to help keep those high-touch areas clean is to encourage students, teachers and staff to keep their hands clean. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and running water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.

Teachers and administrators can set an example for students by regularly washing their hands, and handwashing moments could be incorporated into the day during breaks or class changes.

Have a plan

Make sure your support staff has a plan and guidelines for cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing these high-touch, germy areas, and use on-site supervisors to make sure the job is being done well on a consistent basis.

Consider creating a special cleaning checklist for cold and flu season to help prevent the spread of illness during winter.

Want to learn more about how SSC keeps even the germiest places in schools clean? Get in touch with us. And don’t forget to wipe down your keyboard.


For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

3 ways to bring more joy into your school

What brings you joy? It could be a favorite movie or song, family and friends, or travel. It could also be something you don’t even notice, like the paint color in your office, or art on the wall, or a round paperweight on your desk.

Studies have shown our surroundings can have a significant effect on our levels of joy. Learning environments are no different.

A Global Youth Survey showed that 61 percent of students are most concerned with improving their physical learning environment. And research suggests that the physical environment can significantly affect student achievement.

But there are some easy ways to start bringing joy into your schools. According to designer and writer Ingrid Fetell Lee, joy can be created through design by using color and shapes, and creating a feeling of abundance.

Here are three ways you can add joy into your school.

1. Add color 

In a 2004 study on the relationship between color and emotion, researchers at the University of Georgia found that different colors affect mood in different ways.

  • Green is associated with relaxation and calmness, followed by happiness, comfort, peace, hope and excitement.
  • Yellow is generally said to be lively and energetic, eliciting positive emotions associated with the sun and summertime.
  • Gray is associated with negative emotions, including sadness, depression, boredom, confusion, tiredness, loneliness, anger and fear.

Don’t be scared of adding a little color to your hallways and classrooms. You could do that by repainting the walls or in smaller ways, using colorful furniture, window dressing or rugs.

Landscape image of an empty classroom.

Or get students involved by having them work together to paint a mural in the hallway.

“One colorful mural can transform a barren hallway or entrance into a vibrant and joyful sight,” educator Steven Wolk wrote in a 2008 edition of Educational Leadership.

2. Round it out

Shapes can also affect our mood. Neuroscientists have found that the parts of the brain responsible for anxiety light up when people see angular objects, but not when they see circular objects.

In her TED Talk, Lee describes how, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, architects incorporated curves into the design of the building to create a safe-feeling environment for the children who returned to the school. The slightly curved entrance was purposefully made in order to give students a welcoming feel as they approached.

Redesigning your entire entryway may not be feasible now, but you can incorporate curves into your school with pictures of balloons and ice cream cones on the wall, or by adding circular stools and furniture.

And don’t forget about your landscaping. Circle-shaped bushes, anyone?

3. Take it outside

We already know great landscaping goes a long way in making a good first impression, but planting flowers and keeping your lawns pretty can also affect student and faculty emotions in a positive way.

Lawns enhance the quality of life and contribute to social harmony and community pride, according to The Lawn Institute.

And don’t be scared to take the classroom outside. According to The Guardian, “Outdoor learning can make for happier, healthier, well-rounded students – particularly for those with special educational needs.”

Given to Emily by ssc in May 2014

Let’s make school environments more fun and vibrant – and joyful.


Want to learn more about how SSC works to create joyful learning environments? Get in touch with us today.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

Robots are taking over campus (in a good way)

If you own a Roomba or regularly ask Alexa about the weather, you’ve seen how technology is changing the way we live. These advancements save us valuable time and energy and can help us be more productive.

They can be just as helpful for your school’s custodial and grounds management programs, making them more efficient and cost-effective.

The robot revolution is here, and, at SSC, we’re embracing it.

Here are a couple examples of how we’re using robotics and technology on our campuses.

Rain or shine, Chona gets to work

Meet Chona, the newest member of the SSC grounds team at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

The Husqvarna Automower has been running since the beginning of the 2018 school year and has been doing a great job, according to Grounds Manager Matt Rich. Rain or shine, the automatic lawn mower starts automatically at 6 a.m., cleans an area that’s marked off by boundary wire and re-docks when it’s finished.

This Roomba-like lawnmower saves SSC about 100 hours of labor per year, which can be rededicated to other areas of campus.

“The mower is very quiet, which is nice because we have restrictions about mowing on campus while classes are in session,” Rich said. “It allows us to maintain areas near housing and buildings that we couldn’t normally do.”

Rich and his team also partnered with the school’s engineering department, and he will be teaching a class in November about the use of GPS technology in the workplace, bringing in the Automower to show students how it works.

“A lot of students and faculty love seeing Chona,” he said.

‘An impossible place to get to’

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences is housed in a recently renovated warehouse. Seven pod-like structures in the cavernous space hold classrooms and work rooms for students.

While walking on the second level and looking down at the pods, Unit Manager Gene Fritzinger noticed a problem: Over time those pod roofs collect dust and he didn’t have the equipment to clean them. Plus, the roofs don’t have railings, so he knew it wouldn’t be safe for humans to get up there.

“We just didn’t have access,” Fritzinger said. “We couldn’t reach them from the walkway. It just seemed like an impossible place to get to. … I cringe to think of someone walking on top of the roof. That wasn’t an option.”

So, he hired robots.

The iRobot vacuum cleans the roof each night, after everyone has gone home, and Fritzinger can pull up the video the next day to make sure it did a good job. It stays on each pod roof for a week before being brought down, cleaned and put on another roof. Fritzinger got the first robot about four months ago and recently bought a second one.

Not only is it safer, but it allows Fritzinger’s team to focus their time and energy on other parts of campus.

“When you’re in this business, dust makes you nervous,” he said. “Now the roofs always look great.”

(Top photo courtesy of Rachel Rodemann, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.)


Want to learn more about how SSC uses technology to keep schools running smoothly? Get in touch with us today.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

How dirty classrooms could be negatively affecting your students and teachers

Students in a classroom

Having a dark, dirty and poorly ventilated school does more than make for a bad first impression for potential students and parents. It could also drastically affect student achievement and teacher morale.

“Students and teachers need clean, roomy, well-ventilated and well-lit spaces for teaching and learning,” Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, told The Atlantic in an article titled “Reimagining the Modern Classroom.”

And studies back this up.

“With respect to students, school facilities affect health, behavior, engagement, learning and growth in achievement,” the Penn State Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis found. “Thus, researchers generally conclude that without adequate facilities and resources, it is extremely difficult to serve large numbers of children with complex needs.”

But U.S. school facilities received a D+ in the most recent Infrastructure Report Card, released by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017. The report also found that 24 percent of public school buildings are in poor or fair condition.

Here are three ways poor learning environments could be negatively affecting your students:

1. Increased absenteeism and sickness

Ever heard of “sick building syndrome”? It’s real, and can affect school attendance.

Poor air quality can have a huge impact on absenteeism, especially on students with asthma. And poor ventilation allows “bacteria, viruses and allergens that contribute to childhood disease” to circulate, according to the Penn State paper.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Labs “noted an increase of 50 percent to 370 percent in the incidence of respiratory illness in spaces with low ventilation rates, as are commonly found in schools, compared to spaces meeting industry-accepted standards,” according to the 2016 State of Our Schools report from the 21st Century School Fund.

Rear view of little boy and his classmates raising arms to answer teacher’s question during the lecture in the classroom.

2. Reduced morale and productivity

Lighting plays a major role in both morale and productivity.

“Research has shown that not only does classroom lighting boost the morale of teachers and students, (but) appropriate amounts of natural lighting also reduces off-task behavior and improves test scores,” according to the Penn State paper.

Poor learning environments affect teachers as well as students.

Nineteen percent of teachers who left the profession cited “dissatisfaction with working conditions,” according to a Learning Policy Institute study. And teacher turnover is costly. It hurts student achievement and leads to shortages, and it can cost up to $21,000 to replace a new teacher in an urban school district, according to Education Week.

3. Lower test scores

In addition to productivity, poor lighting could directly affect test scores.

A study in California found that students scored as much as 25 percent higher on standardized tests in classrooms with more natural light. In an earlier study, students with “the most exposure to natural daylight progressed 20 percent faster in math and 26 percent faster in reading than students who were taught in environments with the least amount of natural light.”

Even classroom temperature can affect student achievement. The Penn State Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis reports that the ideal temperature range for learning in reading and math is 68-74 degrees.

Having an efficient and thorough custodial and preventive maintenance program makes it possible to create and maintain a clean, comfortable, pleasing atmosphere conducive to learning. Not only does it look nicer, but it can have a measurable positive effect on your students and teachers.


By providing a consistent level of professional service, we at SSC greatly contribute to the safety, health and well-being of students, faculty, parents and guests. Want to learn more about our custodial programs? Get in touch with us here.

4 ways facility services can bring savings

School finance is a hot topic on campuses and in school board meetings across the country as districts are being forced to make tough decisions about what to cut or how to spread funding to cover more programs.

As other spending priorities have encroached on state and local dollars, education funding has taken a big hit. In fact, according to a recent Education Week analysis looking at how much U.S. states spend on education, more than half received an F grade – and just seven states earned an A or A-. (You can find a breakdown of the state grades here.)

So, what can be done? The answer might be in your support services budget.

In nearly 50 years of serving educational institutions across the country, SSC has found several places schools can look to save money that can be put straight back into the classroom.

1. Benefit and retirement costs

Outsourcing is a scary word to some people, but contracting your support services can keep employees in their jobs while also helping schools save money – a win-win. You keep your valued employees, but we take the HR responsibilities off your plate by handling retirement, benefit and workers’ comp costs.

Outsourcing custodial services “helped save us significant dollars and eliminated all personnel headaches in that department,” said Darrell G. Floyd, a superintendent in Texas. “The end result is cleaner buildings for our students and teachers. That’s what we’re after.”

received by emily by ssc may 2014

2. Labor

Eighty percent of a support services department’s budget is labor. But there are ways to trim that cost without letting go of employees.

Our programs leverage technology to make each employee more productive, and we use safety training to curb accidents, which results in schools that are cleaner, safer and more efficient – saving time and money.

3. Deferred maintenance

Putting off maintenance can cost you dearly in the long run. It’s estimated that every $1 not spent on preventive maintenance results in $4 in repairs and replacements down the road.

We use a computerized maintenance management system to monitor all of our systems and improve our work order efficiency and the PM process.

A robust preventive maintenance program helps schools extend the life expectancy of equipment and minimize untimely and expensive system failures.

Received by Emily Lekoski from SSC May 2014

4. Analytics

You know the phrase “work smarter, not harder?” It pays off. Compass Group’s analytics team, E15, helps companies and school districts across the country make data-based decisions about everything from energy usage to the right time to propose a bond referendum, all based on market research.

There’s no easy answer to school funding problems, but we can help you save on support services so you can worry about what matters most: educating your students.


Want to learn more about how we’ve helped schools save money on support services? Click here or get in touch with us here.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.