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Billerica Minuteman - Shawsheen’s head of maintenance talks cleaning practices in the time of coronavirus

By Joy Hosford

Posted Oct 12, 2020 at 3:52 PM Updated Oct 12, 2020 at 6:39 PM

Keeping public spaces clean, especially schools, is critical in the fight to keep students and the public safe from coronavirus. Many maintenance departments, including the crew at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, have invested in new ways to take their sanitation practices to a new level.

If you keep an eye on Twitter you may have seen the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School account tweet a video of Shawsheen Grounds/Mechanic maintenance department member Kevin Tildsley spraying down a classroom using the recently purchased Victory Professional Cordless Electrostatic Backpack Sprayer. The machine, which many in the district have affectionately nicknamed the Ghostbuster pack, is a serious means of keeping gems, especially the coronavirus, at bay.

According to Head of Maintenance Robert Lawler, the sprayer is used daily to disinfect classrooms once students are dismissed.

It can disinfect up to 23,000 square feet on a single tank of cleaning fluid.

Shawsheen Director/Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson said the district has purchased more than $200,000 in personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies since July 1.

“In addition, we have hired two additional cleaners from our cleaning company to be in school during lunch periods to maintain a safe environment in both the cafeteria and gym at a cost of $132 [per] day,” Jackson said.

He said the school has also added hours to maintenance staff through overtime so they can disinfect classrooms and shops at night

Lawler said it takes his crew around two and a half hours to spray the entire building after school.

Each man is outfitted with a respirator, gloves, and the option to wear a protective suit if they choose. Shawsheen’s head of maintenance talks cleaning practices in the time of COVID-19

He said it takes the sanitation solution 2 minutes to kill germs and 8 minutes to fully dry.

Working via electrostatic technology, the backpack adds charge to the cleaning solution, which helps the liquid particles instantly cling to any surface they come into contact with.

“It seeks a place to land,” said Lawler, adding he recently hired an additional person to the maintenance department to help with this task in the months to come.

He said his staff has been on campus five days a week since the start of the COVID-19 crisis preparing for the return of students and staff.

Lawler said the order of operations each day is to clean doors, handrails, and any other high-traffic tough area before, and as the school day begins, then sanitize between all five lunch periods in the two locations lunch is held, the cafeteria and gymnasium. They then make sure all cleaning supplies and hand sanitizing stations are in stock, while students and teachers keep their personal spaces cleaned during the day.

Alongside maintenance staff, janitors who work through the third-party employer TNT Cleaning Services Inc., sweep, disinfect, clean restrooms multiple times throughout the day.

Lawler said all-in-all the experience has been smoother than he anticipated. He said some staff are more on edge than others, but that is to be expected given the situation.

“All-in-all it has been pretty good,” Lawler said, adding how impressed he has been with all the students who he feels are just as committed to keeping safe as staff.

“As far as maintenance concerns, when I have passed them in the halls I don’t think I have seen one without a mask yet.”