School Cleanliness, Student Performance: Two-Thirds of Parents Concerned About School Germs

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There’s an excitement in the air this time of year as thousands of children around the country head back to school. They happily board buses that take them to the place where they will spend upwards of eight hours each day in confined quarters with hundreds of peers. They will reconnect with friends after a long summer, get reacquainted with teachers and settle in to the year ahead.

Unfortunately, this time of year also means entering a building with unknown and potentially unsanitary, germ-infested and unhealthy environmental conditions. If you think that’s a bit melodramatic, think again.

Consider that the average student comes down with a cold between six and 10 times per year. With a cold lasting up to 10 days, that’s potentially more than three months out of the year of being sick. Add to that cases of gastroenteritis (stomach flu), conjunctivitis (pink eye) and dreaded head lice and absent days and potential for contagion amplify.  

With more than 200 different cold viruses running rampant and millions of germs living on desk tops, door knobs, water faucets, toilets and other surfaces, if left unmanaged, schools are a veritable petri dish of illness waiting to spread.

A report from The University of Pennsylvania zeroed in on the most noteworthy germ-bearing surfaces children come into contact with on a daily basis. Among the most significant offenders: cafeteria trays and plates, water faucets and computers. In fact, the long-suspected water fountain has more than 800 times the germs compared to a school toilet seat.

While handwashing and covering sneezes are remedial efforts at keeping germs at bay, the real onus is on keeping schools hygienically clean and sanitary to cut down on the number of illness-causing germs from festering on common surfaces.

There is a long-standing link between a school building’s maintenance and cleanliness, and a student’s ability to perform and achieve at a high level.

As a nationally recognized janitorial, maintenance and facility services provider that has worked with schools across the nation for nearly four decades, OpenWorks understands the vital link between sanitary cleanliness and student performance. In a national survey conducted by OpenWorks, 3 out of 5 parents indicated that they have ongoing concerns that their children are exposed to germs at school. That’s a real eye-opener. It’s one of the reasons that OpenWorks helps schools abate germ proliferation and potential for student illness through everyday hygienic cleaning of the most used surfaces, while also undertaking deep-clean efforts that aim to purge the school of harmful microorganisms.

Another study by APPA – Leadership in Educational Facilities revealed a direct correlation between a school’s cleanliness and students’ academic achievements.  Eighty-eight percent of students polled indicated that an unsanitary environment was cause for distraction for them. And, approximately 78 percent of students said that cleanliness, or lack thereof, affects their overall health.

Further, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2017 report on healthy school environments concluded that more than 55 million children in 132,000 public and private school buildings are at risk to create environmental hazards to students’ and staff members’ health.

Hygienic schools equal happier and healthier students who exhibit less stress and an increased ability to learn. The final question we must ask ourselves as the school year progresses: Are my children attending an F-grade (as in Filthy or Foul) school, or is the school on the clean and coveted “Dean’s List?”

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