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GCA Grand Award K-12/School Districts: Howard County (Md.) Public Schools

GCA Grand Award K-12/School Districts: Howard County (Md.) Public Schools

Grand Award: K-12/School Districts

Howard County Public School System, Ellicott City, Maryland


Total number of students: 51,077

Total square footage maintained: 7,679,510

Total number of custodians: 434

Total annual cleaning budget: $1,093,470

Green cleaning team members: Rebecca Straw, Principal; Michael Marchetti, Head Custodian; John Jackson, Yaw Wiafe, Marguerite Jackson

In 2005, The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), Office of Custodial Services, began the process of “Cleaning for Health” by using low-VOC cleaning products certified by Green Seal or Ecologo. The district recognized that, in order to support the strategic goals of the school system and gain the confidence of employees and the community, it needed to exceed legislative requirements.

The first step in the process was the conversion of floor finish, resulting in a 99 percent annual reduction in stripping requirements. The reductions in floor stripping resulted in an estimated decrease of more than 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds, of non-biodegradable waste not placed back into the environment annually. The next step included transitioning all remaining cleaning and chemical products to their green equivalents; shifting to a minimum of 10 percent PCR resin content trash liners, requirements of Green Seal for paper products; and using advanced microfiber systems and HEPA vacuums. School facility managers and supervisors completed a 24-hour training program from the Building Wellness Institute, and implemented systemwide changes in the daily cleaning processes and procedures designed to improve indoor air quality. School facilities underwent a detailed audit of cleaning processes, procedures and business practices as part of the GS-42 certification process.

These improvements led to Howard County being recognized in May 2012 as the first public school system in the nation to achieve Green Seal GS-42 certification for cleaning and contributing to a healthful and more sustainable environment.

The Office of Custodial Services will continue to keep abreast of new technologies, trends and LEED requirements. In addition, it will investigate an ATP meter to determine the cleaning efficiency and hygienic status of surfaces.

A new member of the custodial team receives 32 hours of training on the following: HCPSS policies; bloodborne pathogens; child abuse; pest management; fire extinguishers; microfiber systems; PPE; chemical and equipment use; and other related cleaning practices. In order to ensure success for all staff, the Office of Custodial Services offers training and development at multiple venues for its team members. As part of the Green Seal certification process, the district developed an additional 24 hours of training to meet the requirements of the Green Seal “Cleaning for Health” initiative. The Master Custodial Track (MCT) and the Master Custodial Supervisor Track (MCST) are both eight-day training series developed to provide refresher training for existing supervisors, as well as to provide opportunities for succession planning for aspiring supervisors. This program covers the following topics: cleaning procedures for restrooms and classrooms; preventive maintenance of indoor/outdoor equipment; technology use; safety procedures; leadership styles and conflict management. Although many training offerings cover technical cleaning areas, very few focus on the soft skills required to successfully manage a diverse workforce in a demanding environment.

The Office of Custodial Services developed the Service Solutions procedure booklet. The booklet outlines task frequency and specific daily/weekly task requirements. Each team member of the custodial staff and the school administration receives a copy of the booklet in order to ensure consistent cleaning standards throughout the system. Monthly inspections reinforce those requirements and help the school teams meet those standards through appearance level. The custodial management team will make an assessment of green cleaning procedures, storage, chemical use, equipment maintenance, recordkeeping and the overall appearance of each facility. Once a school has been assessed, a grade is assigned and shared with the team and administration. If the overall quality is an “A,” a “Marvelous Award” certificate is given, and often is delivered at schoolwide recognition ceremonies. If an individual or team receives a grade of “C” or lower, additional training is provided to help them improve performance, with a re-inspection occurring about 60 days later.

To assess principals’ satisfaction with services provided, Ken Roey, executive director, facilities planning and management, conducts annual meetings with administrators and has them complete a quality assessment evaluation. The evaluation rates their satisfaction with the following in their schools: comfort level of the building; cleanliness; appearance and maintenance of grounds; responsiveness to issues; communication between school and external staff; and overall level of service. In addition, the school system surveys staff on an annual basis, including questions relating to the cleanliness of the building. All indicators have shown significant improvement in customer satisfaction over the last five years. All feedback is reviewed regularly with management and used for quality-improvement projects.

The district is using the 5S system of visual control in custodial closets to increase efficiency by keeping the workplace neat, orderly and accessible. The 5S process has eliminated excessive time spent searching for tools and supplies, reduced on-hand inventory, and promotes healthy cleaning. A simple example is labeling restroom mops with red tape. Two machines are used to reduce impact on the environment, including a carpet machine with a low-moisture “encapsulation” cleaning method with a quicker drying time, and a scrubber that requires no chemicals.

Schools and students are valued partners in the system’s recycling practices as they practice solid waste reduction, reuse and/or recycling. The school system is able to single-stream recyclable paper, bottles and cans, which makes it easier for the schools and students to buy into the recycling process. Recycling collection containers are in each classroom and common areas; the accessibility of the containers aid in facilitating recycling. Schools also have taken additional steps in reducing waste by sponsoring a “no-waste” lunch day or week, encouraging students to minimize the waste and/or recyclable items they pack for lunch that day. Recycling and waste-reducing posters, banners and informational literature, placed throughout the schools, increase awareness of recycling practices. In addition, the custodial team works closely with the county government’s recycling coordinator to conduct presentations and training to the students during lunch periods and at summer camps.

Policy 6020, the School Construction Program and the Comprehensive Maintenance Program are approved by the Board of Education. Collectively, they outline the board’s commitment to sustainable design and maintenance practices. In April 2012, the Howard County Public School System became the first K-12 public school system to receive As part of its Green Seal Standard certification for Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services certification, the district is required to have a range of written standard operation procedures, including a communication and training requirements plan. This includes a Stewardship Plan, which is a critical tool for promoting sustainability throughout an organization and achieving cooperation with all stakeholders.

The Office of Custodial Services is a member of the systemwide Sustainability (Green School) Committee, which assists with individual schools’ sustainable practices, as well as promoting environmental awareness and sustainability throughout the school system. As a significant member of the committee, the Custodial Services’ “Green Team” focuses on pathways to effective and consistent communication among all parties involved in managing and maintaining healthy, sustainable indoor environments. This would include:

-School administration and faculty.

-Building services.

-Cleaning staff and the green team.

-Risk management.

-Grounds services.

-Student and parent representatives.

-Major vendor(s) and outside contractors.

The Green Team assists with developing site-specific plans, and includes responses to student/faculty/parent/visitor and Custodial Services’ employee complaints, as well as odors, mold and accidents related to indoor environmental conditions. The plans also address recycling efforts and overall communications strategies and responsibilities.

On May 22, 2012, we were recognized by the Board of Education for achieving the Green Seal certification. Information regarding the award was shared via HCPSS-TV, on the web, and in school newsletters. The Green Seal certification efforts and leadership training have both been recognized in Cross-Functional Leadership meetings and are included in the Howard County Public School System Strategic Plan. The Executive Director of Facilities Planning and Management, and the Manager of the Office of Custodial Services, has conducted presentations to the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Advisory Council regarding continued efforts with systemwide recycling. Howard County Government representatives have conducted numerous other presentations to both school and community groups.

During the past several years, more than 50 percent of Howard’s schools have earned Green School Certification through the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education; in April 2012, Dunloggin Middle School became one of the first schools in the nation to receive a National Green Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education. The County Executive presents Green School awards at our annual Environmental Summits, and HCPSS is a participant in the annual Howard County GreenFest event. Some of the district’s community partners include the Howard County Conservancy, Howard County Master Gardeners, Howard County Recreation and Parks, and the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. There are multiple events hosted by schools throughout the school year, which are designed to engage the community in elements of green schools.

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