District facilities have been evaluated and adjusted to comply with requirements issued for the reopening of schools. The classroom and school day will look different for staff and students. These changes reflect the “layered approach” referenced in the introduction to this guide. Individually, each of these measures increases safety, but when many of them are layered together, we maximize our ability to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
Classrooms have been arranged to space student and teacher desks to comply with Department of Health requirements and will have three feet between all student-occupied desks with students facing the same direction, to the degree possible. The teaching space will be 6-feet distanced from students. Classroom furniture has been rearranged (or removed) to provide additional necessary space for staff and student movement and to facilitate effective cleaning. Personal furniture or upholstered fabric items such as stuffed animals, pillows and couches should not be in classrooms. Classroom procedures will be established for students’ personal belongings to minimize student contact and allow for social distancing during transitions. Teachers are encouraged to minimize the use of shared items. Students should wash or sanitize their hands before and after use of shared items.
Dedicated areas for temporary separation of a student or employee who shows COVID- 19 symptoms have been identified by district facilities staff, school nurses and the site administrator. When appropriate, outside areas will be used as a care area for students to wait for pickup by a guardian. Each building will identify a COVID-19 response team of staff who have been trained to support/supervise students in care areas to maintain safety. The use of proper PPE will be part of the training provided by the school nurse. Interior care rooms have a window to allow for observation/supervision and to maintain distancing. These areas are designed for medium- to high-risk observation. If the risk rises above this level, 911 should be called.
Note: The waiting areas and care rooms shall be separate from the traditional school health room where students receive first aid or their daily medications.
Use of Common Areas and Other Building Spaces
Administrative and reception areas have been equipped with plastic barriers where six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
PPE dispensers have been placed in all front offices. The dispensers contain disposable masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. These dispensers will be restocked by building custodians.
Protocols for limiting crowding in restrooms will be in place and monitored. Electric hand dryers in restrooms have been disconnected and replaced with paper towel dispensers.
Signs have been placed in highly visible areas to promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of COVID-19. Sign locations may include building entrances and exits, restrooms, classrooms, office areas, cafeteria, auditorium and custodial staff areas. Additional signage may be obtained through building custodians. Buildings that determine the need for signage addressing different topics may request guidance from the Safety Department. Site administrators may supplement with additional signage including developmentally appropriate signage and in different languages as available.
Building Ventilation Systems
Reducing the transmission risk of COVID-19 requires a multi-tiered approach to safety including staying home when sick, wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands, revising cleaning protocols and improving ventilation. By themselves, each approach helps reduce transmission. Layering them together maximizes these efforts. Both our individual and our organizational attention to these measures help the whole community in reducing transmission of COVID-19.
Building heating and ventilation systems play a key role in the comfort, health, safety, and efficacy of the learning environment. The strategies included in this document are derived from current industry and regulatory guidance, including the Washington State Department of Health, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the American Society of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
These systems are engineered and balanced for intended maximum occupancies for full in-person instruction with all students and staff onsite. To increase airflows further, Mukilteo School District (MSD) is following guidance issued and has implemented several strategies including:
- Conducting inspections and analyses on all building mechanical systems
- Adjusting existing building controls systems to increase outside air percentages
- Have installed upgraded MERV-13 filters and are changing them more frequently throughout the year
As the year progresses, these systems will continue to be adjusted and balanced for seasonal weather changes, outside air conditions, and continually analyzed with our current and planned occupancies as weather patterns begin to shift. This process will continue throughout the year and any new guidance will be implemented to the full extent possible.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. HVAC systems maintain air quality by:
- Bringing outside air into a building
- Heating or cooling it for occupant comfort
- Exhausting stale indoor air
All district HVAC systems filter air to further improve air quality.
Ventilation: To maximize air quality and safety, current regulatory and industry guidance is to maximize outside air being introduced into rooms before, during and after the spaces are occupied, and to minimize recirculated air. However, space temperatures must also be maintained within an acceptable range to meet state requirements and provide an effective learning environment. During extremely hot or cold weather, the higher volumes of outside air may overwhelm the heating capacity of HVAC equipment. Therefore, the district aims to create the right balance of maximizing outside air whenever possible with accommodations made during extreme weather conditions.
- The district has adjusted all HVAC systems to allow 100 percent, or the maximum amount that outside air conditions allowed, to enter the space. This is achieved by disabling demand-controlled ventilation to bring in more outside air to reduce recirculation of air. Programming changes have been completed and buildings are operating at 100 percent outside air until outside air temperatures drop too When outside air temperatures are low, outside air percentages are temporarily reduced to ensure the system can heat spaces adequately. This involves continuous, ongoing, real-time monitoring and adjusting.
- The district has programmed HVAC systems to entirely “flush” or “purge” the building’s indoor air two hours before and two hours after occupancy every day.
- The district has made adjustments to increase the overall air volume per occupant. This means more fresh air is being brought in from outside, increasing the air exchange rate. Additionally, with systems being operated at fully occupied modes, there is also more air volume in spaces per person in our buildings.
Where operable windows exist, occupants may open them. However, guidance does not recommend it where building HVAC systems exist. Running HVAC systems to increase outside air ventilation is the preferred mechanism to improve airflow. The absence of operable windows does not make occupants unsafe when the system adjustments outlined above are in place. In some cases, because of the pressurization of the HVAC system, opening windows will not necessarily allow more air inside. For portable classrooms, opening the windows may be an improvement as those rooms are not part of the main building’s HVAC system. Portable classrooms have their own dedicated heating and ventilation systems that are very similar to residential systems.
Air Filtration: HVAC systems utilize filters on both fresh and recirculated air. Filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating that indicates the degree of particulate matter it captures. While ASHRAE recommends upgrading filters to MERV-13. The higher the MERV number, the more effective the filtration. It is important to note that while MERV-13 filters will help trap the virus, they will not remove all viruses from the airstream. Also, the impact of higher filtration when combined with a 100 percent outside air ventilation strategy is primarily applicable during extreme weather conditions when outside air dampers must return to standard positions and a greater proportion of air is recirculated. At all other times, air passing through filters will be predominantly fresh outside air with minimal risk of virus.
- The district installed MERV-13 filters in all air handling units districtwide. Systems are being monitored for functionality to ensure adequate airflow and system pressurization as explained above. The successful transition to MERV-13 filters in 2020-21 has resulted in the district permanently increasing its standard to MERV-13.
- The district has increased the frequency of filter replacements during the year.
Maintenance and Monitoring: Skilled district maintenance staff attend to the district’s HVAC system maintenance, monitoring, repair and adjustment. Others assist as needed to solve issues or conduct routine preventative maintenance functions on system components. Further, the district partners with industry experts including Siemens and McKinstry for engineering, system optimization, analysis, critical alarming and other specialized services. District ventilation systems are continuously monitored and will be additionally adjusted during the pandemic to adapt to changing guidance or conditions.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols
Mukilteo School District has revised cleaning and disinfecting protocols in compliance with Department of Health (DOH) guidelines. Disinfecting is a shared responsibility in this pandemic. Employees and students must work together with custodial staff to promote a clean and healthy environment for everyone within each building. Each classroom and workspace will have EPA- and DOH-approved cleaning products and supplies. Custodians will replenish these supplies upon request when they run low.
The DOH requires training on any cleaning or disinfecting products in schools. A staff training has been created using Safe Schools for the Solsta 730 cleaner and hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant product (DOH- and EPA-approved) that will be used in our schools. Prior to placing the supplies in classrooms, teachers are required to take this training. Other staff who plan to use Solsta 730 must complete the online training prior to use.
Custodian daily routines will include:
- Wiping down tables, chairs and other surfaces
- Disinfecting student desks at the end of each day
- Cleaning and/or vacuuming floors
- Cleaning and sanitizing restrooms
- Cleaning non-classroom areas such as offices, kitchens, locker rooms and care rooms
- Emptying all trash
- Restocking soap, sanitizer and paper towels as necessary
The following touchpoints will be disinfected by the building custodian as part of routine cleaning protocols and as time allows throughout the day:
- Door handles, push bars and push plates
- Light switches
- Classroom doors
- Elevator push buttons
- Bottle filling stations
- Restroom doors, handles and push plates
- ADA grab bars
- Toilet and urinal handles
- Feminine hygiene dispensers
- Sink and faucet handles
- Toilet paper, soap, and paper towel dispenser and handles
ActivPanels, phone handsets, and district technology devices should be cleaned by the user at the end of the day or between users. Approved alcohol-based wipes for this specific purpose will be supplied in each classroom, work areas, and common use areas, and may be replenished by the custodian upon request. These wipes should only be used by staff and only on technology devices.
Staff share the responsibility of ongoing cleaning and disinfecting of workspaces and equipment. Staff should ensure frequently touched surfaces within their work areas are cleaned or disinfected during the day, especially between users. Items that may need attention include:
- Activ panels and other technology devices
- Phone handsets
- Personal desktops
- Writing utensils
- Surfaces or above touchpoints as needed
Appropriate DOH-approved supplies that students can use to aid in the effort to clean their desks or areas will be available in classrooms, including district-supplied soap and water-based wipes.
Cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be updated as new guidance is received.
If a positive COVID-19 case is determined within a school or building, district staff will follow guidance from the local health district official. In general, response steps include:
- School or room closures for cleaning after positive cases will be determined on a situational basis and on the advice of local health authorities.
- A group of trained custodians will provide supplemental support for schools and facilities that need help to provide the deeper cleaning and disinfecting needed after a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Supplies
In addition to continuing to reinforce the importance of frequent hand washing/use of hand sanitizer, the District Support Services Center, through building custodians, will provide the necessary approved cleaning/disinfecting materials for staff use. Clorox wipes and common household disinfectants are not approved by the Department of Health and should not be brought into district facilities. The Department of Health also states that students are only allowed to use soap and water, or baby wipes. Appropriate wipes meeting this requirement will be supplied for student use in each classroom.