A Guide for a Cleaner Classroom
When kids go to school, they’re entering an environment which can quickly become a massive breeding ground for bacteria. Kids constantly share their germs throughout the day, either from sneezing, wiping their nose, or failing to properly clean their hands. Not only do they touch the same surfaces, as well as each other, but they also frequently touch their faces and mouths and as a result, the germs from one child are likely shared with the entire class. For this reason, teachers must stay vigilant in keeping classrooms and the objects within it as clean as possible.
According to a study conducted by the Nemours Foundation, 73 percent of school nurses felt that the most important things that teachers could do to help keep their students healthy were to keep classroom surfaces clean and promote hand washing. This and other hygienic practices can go a long way in reducing the number of days lost to illness annually. Although this may seem to be just another task in your already-hectic schedule, you don’t have to do it alone. Depending on the age of the students, they can help do their part in maintaining a clean classroom environment which reduces illness and preserves health in schools.
Clean and Disinfect Surfaces
Keeping surfaces as clean as possible is a crucial step in keeping a classroom cleaner. Teachers should wipe down desks, sinks, and counters using products provided by the school district, which generally include an all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Surfaces such as window blinds should also be kept clean and dust-free using a dampened microfiber cloth. Certain “high-touch” areas should be thoroughly disinfected, including computer keyboards and mice, shared desks and tables, door handles and knobs, and light switches.
Disinfecting is generally a job performed at the end of the day by the school’s custodial staff, but if a child vomits or has another sort of biological accident in the classroom, teachers should call custodians to disinfect an area right away. In these cases, extra care should be taken to keep children from the area until it has been cleaned and dried. Teachers should also verify with the school custodians that disinfection is being done on a regular basis.
- Cleaning for Healthy Schools and Infection Control (PDF)
- Classroom Cleaning Tips for Teachers (PDF)
- How to Clean and Disinfect Schools to Help Slow the Spread of Flu (PDF)
- Guide to Green Cleaning: Practices and Products for Schools (PDF)
- Classroom Computer Cleaning Instructions (PDF)
- Fighting Classroom Germs Helps Keep Kids Healthy
Stock Rooms With Soap and Encourage Hand Washing
Throughout the day, children come into physical contact with the germs that make them sick. To prevent dirty hands from transferring these germs to their mouths or to other students, ensure that the room is stocked with antibacterial hand soap and, if allowed by the school district, hand sanitizer. Instruct children to wash their hands after sneezing or coughing, if they come into contact with other children who may be ill, and before they eat lunch or snacks. Kids should also be taught how to properly wash their hands.
- School Supply List Guidance for Healthy Classrooms (PDF)
- Reducing the Spread of Germs: Tips for Teachers (PDF)
- Kids and Germs: Reduce the Risk
- Cleaning Up: Battling Germs in School Facilities (PDF)
- How it Works: Washing Hands With Soap and Water
- Scrub Club Teacher Guide (PDF)
A cluttered classroom can make it difficult for janitorial staff to dust, vacuum, and otherwise clean as thoroughly as they should. This may allow dust to collect or undetected spills to grow mold, which can be problematic for asthmatic children. Food crumbs from snacks or dropped candy can also be hidden by clutter and attract pests such as ants or even roaches and rodents. To reduce clutter, teachers should ensure that every item has a place to be properly stored. Cubbies and plastic bins are useful ways to help keep rooms organized and free of clutter. Each classroom should also have strict rules instructing students to clean up after themselves. At the end of each day, teachers or their assistants should check the room for messes and tidy them up before they leave.
- Tips for Teachers to Keep Your Classrooms Clean and Healthy (PDF)
- Nine Smart Habits to Steal From Super-Organized Teachers
- Controlling Common Asthma Triggers Found in Schools
- Creating an Asthma-Friendly Classroom (PDF)
Reduce Items That Are Upholstered or Made of Fabric
Items made of fabric attract allergens such as dust mites and pet dander. Pet dander may enter a classroom on children’s clothing or from classroom pets. These allergens can cause asthma and allergic reactions in some students. Items such as rugs, stuffed animals, and curtains should be removed from the classroom or their presence drastically reduced. Get rid of upholstered furniture and replace it with vinyl or leather furniture that can easily be kept clean. Fabric items that are not removed from the classroom should be made of washable materials and undergo regular cleaning to reduce the presence of allergens. Additionally, storing stuffed animals in closed bins can reduce the amount of dust that settles on them when they are not being played with.
- Five Ways to a Cleaner, Healthier Classroom
- Clean Air in the Classroom
- Tips for Healthier Air Quality in Classrooms (PDF)
- Healthy Air Walkthrough: Classroom Checklist (PDF)
- Seven Steps to a Healthier Classroom (PDF)
Watch for Signs of Illness
For parents, the decision to keep a child home from school is a difficult and complex one. Unfortunately, when sick children are sent to school, they can easily make their fellow students sick as well. Keeping a watchful eye out for kids who may be contagious is an important part of keeping your classroom healthy. Symptoms to look for include nausea, persistent coughing, vomiting, extreme lethargy, diarrhea, and fever. Kids who complain of pain, have unusual rashes, or are scratching themselves intensely should be sent to the school nurse. But students aren’t the only ones who should stay home when they’re sick: You may not want to leave your classroom in the hands of a substitute teacher, but if you’re sick, you can spread illness to your students, even if you try hard not to.