Deep cleaning underway at Orange County schools before teachers return

District hires 100 custodians who from Rosen Hotels whose hours were reduced due to the coronavirus

Workers clean schools in Orange County amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers clean schools in Orange County amid the coronavirus pandemic.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – From top to bottom, Orange County Public Schools custodians are deep cleaning and sanitizing each school as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The school district partnered with Rosen Hotels to employ an additional 100 custodians, in an effort to provide extra hours to associates whose hours were reduced due to the effect coronavirus has had on the hotel industry.

According to a spokesperson representing Rosen Hotels, those associates were not furloughed and were not fired. They had their hours reduced, so Rosen Hotels was being resourceful in trying to find additional work for them to do to add more hours to their schedules.

While the students are out for an extended break due to COVID-19, teachers are expected to report back to school Monday.

The school district said teachers will use the week to prepare lessons for distant learning. Classified staff will also carry out assigned projects.

When asked why the teachers couldn’t work from home, Chief Communications Officer Scott Howat said it was necessary for them to come into the office, but the teachers may not have to work at school the entire week.

“Preparing those learning packets and getting lessons together, getting with their grade teams and making sure they have everything they need, I think it’s important for collaboration and making sure everyone is on the same page,” Howat said.

Nearly 1,200 custodians will deep clean all of the schools in the district with disinfectants and detergents. They will also use an electrostatic sprayer designed to cover and clean the circumference of an area. The school district ensured us it has enough resources and supplies to clean all of the schools before teachers return to work.

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“We’ve also not only made sure we have enough in stock at our local warehouses, but we check our vendors that supply materials to us and monitor where their stocking levels are. We’re documenting any school that’s opened after we have sanitized and disinfected that school, and we trace any routes [teachers use] and minimize the movement to properly disinfect that area,” said Director of Custodial Services Kevin Ballinger.

Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins sent an email to teachers and staff Wednesday that read, in part:

“I know staff are frustrated with these rapid changes, as are our parents and families. In a matter of two weeks we went from schools remaining open, to schools being closed for a week beyond spring break, to schools being closed until April 15. We all suspect that we have not come to the end of such rapid changes. Admittedly, we don’t know all the answers, but we are working to find them. Our education system as we knew it simply does not exist today. I still believe our teachers and staff will creatively provide the best possible support to our students in the coming weeks. I humbly ask for your patience during a challenging transition. We will also be in discussion with our unions.”

Part of the district’s Instructional Continuity Plan includes packets for students and distant learning, to make it convenient for students without a computer or internet access. District administrators say all meetings will be kept at 10 or less.

The district is also asking that teachers not bring their children with them to work and to self-isolate for 14 days if they are returning from a cruise or international travel. They are also waiving all health care co-pays for required COVID-19 tests for their employees.

The district superintendent said officials are researching possibilities to assist with childcare during the extended break. More information is expected to be released later Wednesday.

The district is also seeking waivers from the state so it won’t have to make up school days due to the extended break.

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