GCA Honorable Mention K-12/School Districts: Parkway School District, Chesterfield, Missouri
Total number of students: 17,500
Total square footage maintained: 3,281,417
Total number of custodians: 205
Total annual cleaning budget: $442,500
Green cleaning team members: Keith Marty, Supt.; Mark Stockwell, CFO; Darin Varble, Orlando Lewis, Maggie Wells, Cust. Supervisors; Hilliard, Buckeye, New System, Janitorial Prod. Dist.; Healthy Schools Campaign; Green Clean Institute
Parkway School District is a district of 33 buildings that has been “going green” for decades now. The district started a recycling and energy management program in 1991. Since that time, Parkway has continued to create a greener learning environment. Since the 2006-2007 school year, Parkway has expanded green into the area of cleaning. With the understanding that they need to create more healthful environments that are conducive to learning, Parkway has been taking large strides to ensure facilities are not just clean, but also green clean.
These strides started with using systems that allow proper dilution of Green Seal cleaning products. Over time they have phased in more and more procedures and processes to work up to a comprehensive system. To serve as a guide, Parkway has been actively using Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Missouri Green Cleaning Guidelines and Specifications for Schools. These guidelines have served both as an auditing tool and as a resource of where to move forward. The results of continuing to move this program forward, Parkway has realized at least a 10 percent savings from cleaning chemicals alone. To ensure the success of this program, they have several individuals involved with promoting the program.
Leadership from operations supervisors has helped shape this program. Their leadership has included creating a training program that includes green cleaning webinars, field demonstrations with vendors, and head custodian meetings in which all the regional heads are able to converse and learn from each other’s practices in working with newer products. In order to achieve even greater buy-in, the custodial department has worked with the schools’ nurses and teachers to spread awareness that using harsh chemicals such as bleach are bad for health.
Parkway’s custodial team has implemented a wide variety of practices to achieve multiple goals. These goals include creating a more healthful and cleaner learning environment, implementing training events for custodial staff, and promoting the district’s sustainability initiatives. Parkway has been using Missouri Department of Education’s Missouri Green Cleaning Guidelines and Specifications for Schools, as well as Green Seal’s standard for Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services to serve as a base guide for procedures. One of these procedures includes vacuuming floors after school lets out. Although the vacuums are backpack-style equipment with high quality filters, they still make sure that vacuuming takes place at night to mitigate any potential dust issues. In order to keep the presence of cleaning chemicals down to a minimum, they have moved to a water-only cleaning process. When they conduct daily surface cleaning, they use split microfiber and water instead of an all-purpose cleaner, which picks up any soil very effectively. They will use a Green Seal certified all-purpose cleaner, but only when necessary. They also are in the process of phasing in more floor cleaning equipment to use less cleaning product. This equipment uses metered amounts of cold water, limited cleaning product, and the correct pads to clean effectively. They also are in the process of adapting all of their 175+ vacuums with HEPA filter kits to create an even more healthful environment.
At Parkway, they understand that students are more susceptible to respiratory ailments and they take it very seriously, and understand the impacts that dust and chemicals can have on their breathing. Another procedure they use is a dual bucket process for floor mops. With this process, they use one bucket for clean water and one bucket for dirty water. This helps keep the floor mopping process clean and keeps cross contamination to a minimum. When they do use cleaning products, chemicals themselves have been virtually all converted to Green Seal products. This has created marked health improvements where custodians no longer are required to use rubber gloves and masks for cleaning. However, when chemicals are needed, they use Green Seal chemicals that are diluted with built-in systems.
As a result of Parkway phasing in a variety of new green cleaning products and procedures, it is very important that they train staff on the proper procedures. They have a group of four custodians that serve on the Training Team. This team hosts three training events per year to demonstrate the latest trends and methods in green cleaning. This team is trained by the district’s custodial supervisors who learn directly from manufacturers and distributors. The custodial supervisors also participate in regular webinars provided by the Healthy Schools Campaign and the Green Clean Institute.
Parkway has a long running history of sustainability, and is exemplified by the 22-year-old recycling program. Recycling in Parkway has always been a source of pride for the district. Being a regional leader in recycling is a direct result of the dedication and hard work of the custodians. By encouraging and engaging students in the process, the custodial team is responsible for diverting 750 to 800 tons of single-stream recycling every year. In addition, the custodial staff is integral in a new program that has just begun to divert even more from the landfill. This new program is a food-waste composting program that is expected to remove another 720 tons annually from the landfill. Parkway’s green cleaning program is another piece of how the district is seeking to create a more healthful learning environment that saves resources and money through sustainability initiatives.
In order to continually improve, Parkway has implemented its own Cleanest School Program. This program is a competition that annually recognizes the cleanest, greenest schools. The award program is based on APPA Cleaning Guidelines. The competition involves periodic site visits, with multiple stakeholders walking the schools and rating them. Scores are tallied at the end of each year, and the best schools are recognized at Parkway’s annual Operations Barbeque.
At Parkway, they strongly believe that green cleaning is an important piece of the commitment to sustainability. They think that engaging our surrounding community in this subject is important as well. At the district level, they have individuals that work with the regional purchasing cooperative, Cooperating School Districts (CSD). Within this cooperative, Parkway has taken the lead to work with the group to ensure that Green Seal products are included in the annual cleaning products bid. As a result, additional school districts in the region have learned about the benefits of green cleaning and have been purchasing better products. In addition to the purchasing cooperative, Parkway has had an active voice in supporting proposed legislation at the state level that would turn the current green cleaning guidelines for schools into requirements. Unfortunately, a bill has yet to be passed. However, the fact that Parkway has been advocating these policies at the state level demonstrates the district’s leadership in raising greater awareness for green cleaning benefits.
In communicating with schools themselves, they have an Environmental Services Department that regularly works to train schools on the importance of indoor air quality. This department works with schools to eliminate any aerosols or other odor-masking fragrances that may have detrimental effects on individuals’ respiratory systems. They take this same approach with ensuring that harsh chemicals such as bleach continue to be eliminated from the schools. In addition, the department works with custodians to raise awareness about integrated pest-management procedures. Instead of needlessly spraying harmful chemicals to control pests, they work to eliminate the sources of food, water, etc., that pests would become attracted to while also working to seal buildings.
Although the custodial department may be the unsung heroes of sustainability in Parkway, they have been integral in the program. Because of their efforts in recycling, Parkway has received recycling awards from the Missouri Recycling Association twice, the National Recycling Coalition, the Solid Waste Association of North America, and the American Forest and Paper Association. In addition, Parkway also has received a Growing Green Award twice from the U.S. Green Building Council–Missouri Gateway Chapter. The recycling component was a major element of these awards.