3 Tips to Stop the Spread of Flu in Schools

December 10th, 2012

A case of the flu can spread like wildfire through a school where students, teachers and staff are in close proximity to each other every day.

Fortunately, school custodial departments can take three simple steps to help slow the spread of flu in schools.

1. Clean and disinfect critical touch points.

Critical touch points are areas of your school that are touched frequently, like doorknobs, desktops, keyboards, faucets and phones. Disinfect these touch points daily. It is also important to know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.

2. Use cleaning supplies correctly.

Always follow the instructions on the cleaning products being used to ensure they are effectively killing germs. This may include keeping a surface wet for the required amount of contact time required to kill germs. Read the label to make sure the product is effective against influenza A virus.

3. Simply do routine cleaning and disinfecting.

Because flu viruses are relatively fragile, routine cleaning and disinfecting will kill them. Just make sure that your cleaning products are approved to effectively kill the flu virus.

More Information

For more information about preventing the spread of flu in your school, visit the CDC website or contact Service Management Systems.

Do You Know the Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing?

December 10th, 2012

It’s crucial that school custodial staff know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing in order to effectively prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and debris.

  • Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces.
  • Cleaning does not necessarily kill germs, but lowers their numbers by removing them. This, in turn, reduces the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs.

  • Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs.
  • Disinfecting does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces.
  • By killing germs on a surface after cleaning, disinfecting can further reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs to a safe level (as determined by public health standards or requirements.)

  • Sanitizing works by either cleaning or disinfecting to lower the risk of spreading infection.

More Information

Questions about how to properly clean, sanitize or disinfect surfaces in your school? Contact Service Management Systems.

4 Cost-Effective Ways to Extend the Life of Your School’s Carpet

November 9th, 2012

School Carpet CareFew areas of your school see as much wear and tear as carpet. Dirty or worn carpet is not only an eyesore, but a hazard to indoor air quality. Replacing carpets can be highly expensive, and with decreasing budgets across school districts, getting the most life out of your school’s carpet is essential.

Fortunately, there are four simple and cost-effective ways to extend the life your school’s carpet.

1. Place Walk-off Mats at Entrances

Most debris enters a school building on the soles of shoes. Placing walk-off mats at every entrance will significantly reduce the amount of dirt and debris that is tracked through the halls and into offices and classrooms.

2. Place Area Rugs in High Traffic Areas

High traffic areas — like hallways and inside doorways — will begin to look worn quickly. Place area rugs in these locations to reduce matting. Replacing the area rugs as they begin showing wear and tear is much more affordable than replacing entire rooms of wall-to-wall carpeting.

3. Keep Air Filtration Systems Clean

An often-overlooked cause of carpet wear is an inadequate air filtration system. As air cycles through your heating or cooling system, it flows over and through the carpet, allowing fine dust and dirt to settle on the carpet fibers. Make sure air filters are replaced or cleaned regularly to limit the amount of airborne dust and dirt particles.

4. Vacuum Daily

The most effective way to extend the life of your carpet is to vacuum regularly, preventing dirt and debris from building up. Putting the time and effort into vacuuming daily will pay dividends when the life of your carpet is significantly prolonged.

Make Your School Parking Lot Safer with Cleaning and Maintenance

October 9th, 2012

School Parking LotBecause the safety of students, faculty and staff is a primary concern for schools, it is important to make sure proper safety precautions are taken in the parking lot as well in the school building.

While your school likely has a detailed security plan, there are many ways to make your parking lot safer with simple cleaning and maintenance strategies.


Between after-school activities and evening programs, students, parents, faculty and staff are often in your school’s parking lot after dark. Adequate lighting can go a long way toward making the parking lot a safer place, as it serves as a natural deterrent to crime.

Make sure light bulbs are replaced as soon as they go out. Also, to reduce the likelihood of car accidents in the parking lot, lighting should be laid out uniformly, so that drivers do not pass rapidly from light to dark areas without time for the eye to adjust.


Large trees or shrubs can be used as hiding places. Plan your landscaping so that it does not facilitate hiding, and keep existing shrubbery trimmed.

Trash and Graffiti Removal

A lack of cleanliness and maintenance in a parking lot or garage can give the impression that it is not secure. Remove litter and graffiti promptly.

Hazard Management

Look for wet and dry spills and defective walking surfaces. Because these can increase the chances that someone could be injured in the parking lot, clean spills and repair walking surface as soon as possible.

In combination with a strong security program, these cleaning and maintenance strategies will ensure that your school’s parking lot is a safe, pleasant environment for everyone.

Odor Management Essential for Schools

September 9th, 2012

School Odor ManagementA recent study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that bad smells can negatively impact learning.

In the experiment, volunteers completed a training session where they were exposed to auditory tones. Each tone was immediately followed by a foul odor, a pleasant odor, or no odor. They were then played pairs of similar or identical tones, and asked whether the tones in each set were the same or different. The volunteers were more successful at identifying tones similar to those that were presented with either no odor or a pleasant odor. Their performance worsened with tones that were presented along with a foul odor.

The bottom line: unpleasant odors are a distraction that can impair learning.

With hundreds or even thousands of students, faculty and staff — not to mention cafeterias, bathrooms, locker rooms and science classrooms — schools face a vast assortment of smells. In order to provide an environment that is conducive to learning and studying, schools must take odor management seriously.

What does your school district do to combat foul odors?

Photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

Protect Students and Teachers from MRSA Infections

August 9th, 2012

Prevent MRSA at SchoolsA MRSA infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. While most severe cases occur in people who have been in hospitals, there is another form that has occurred in healthy people. This form often starts with a painful skin boil, and is contracted through skin-to-skin contact. This puts certain populations at risk, including students, especially athletes, as well as coaches and teachers.

The best way individuals can prevent the spread of MRSA infections is to practice good personal hygiene. Teachers, coaches and parents should practice the following behaviors and encourage students to do the same.

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Keep all wounds covered with a clean, dry bandage and follow wound-care instructions from your healthcare provider.
  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds, bandages, or personal items, like towels, bar soap and razors.
  • Use clothing, a towel or similar item as a barrier between the body and shared surfaces, such as gym equipment or benches.
  • Take a shower, or at a minimum wash hands, immediately after any activities, such as sports or exercising, that include direct skin-to-skin contact with other people and shared equipment.
  • Wash uniforms and exercise clothing after each use. Follow the label’s instructions and allow clothing to dry completely, preferably in a dryer.
  • Wear protective gear to prevent cuts or scrapes during sports or exercise.

Students with skin infections or draining wounds should be referred to the school nurse or another healthcare provider, and parents or guardians should be notified. If a larger outbreak of MRSA occurs at your school, school officials should work with local and state public health officials to determine appropriate next steps.

Cleaning and disinfecting for MRSA requires specialized cleaning products and techniques. Any disinfectant used should specify that it is effective against MRSA, and usage instructions must be followed.

Because MRSA infections can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and contact with a surface that has been contacted with another person’s infection, procedures for regularly cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces should be established.
For more information about MRSA infections and their prevention and treatment, visit the CDC website.

3 Reasons to Outsource Your School Janitorial Services to SMS

July 9th, 2012

When you outsource your school janitorial services to SMS, you gain a strategic business partner dedicated to one thing: taking good care of your school district. Read below for three reasons to outsource your janitorial services to SMS.

1. Cost Savings

Typically, SMS can save school districts 15-20% on their operational costs. Transferring employees to SMS payroll saves the district money on payroll taxes, benefits, and human resources administration expenses. It also means your workers’ compensation insurance premiums should decrease significantly. Additionally, our purchasing power means we get the best cleaning and floor care supplies and equipment at the lowest possible cost.

2. Special Cleaning Periods

SMS provides special cleaning periods in the summer and winter. You get a complete overhaul of all buildings during summer break, including stripping and refinishing of all tile floors, extracting all carpeted areas and deep cleaning all restrooms, light fixtures and furniture.

We also offer a special winter clean up that consists of deep scrubbing and recoating hallways and common areas and extracting carpeted areas. This ensures you get the longest life out of your flooring, and that schools look their best all year, not just at the start of the school year.

3. High Quality Employees and Support

With SMS, you get cleaner facilities and a more highly trained, more efficient custodial staff. We perform comprehensive background screening and drug testing, so we know who is in your schools. Initial and recurring training ensures that all employees are working efficiently and, most importantly, safely.

Every district gets a dedicated facility manager to ensure productivity, customer service and contract compliance. SMS has a centralized support system of more than 100 professionals whose sole job is to make sure our teams exceed your expectations.

3 Ways to Save Money Outsourcing School Janitorial Services with SMS

June 9th, 2012

We all know that school districts are looking for ways to become more cost efficient without losing focus on their core mission of education. Decreasing federal, state and local resources are forcing districts to make tough choices and cuts, making it very difficult to maintain an effective in-house custodial operation.

Typically, SMS can save school districts 15-20% on their operational costs. We are able to accomplish this in a variety of ways.

1. Transferring employees to SMS payroll

Transferring custodial employees to SMS payroll saves the district money on payroll taxes, benefits, and human resources administration expenses.

We recognize the time and effort that your employees have put into your district, so we make every effort to retain your full custodial staff. This ensures a smooth and comfortable transition for everyone.
We offer benefits, 401k plans, paid vacation days, and employee appreciation programs.

2. Purchasing Power

SMS serves over 130 properties across the country. Our purchasing power means we get the best cleaning and floor care supplies and equipment at the lowest possible cost. We can reduce costs on everything from bathroom tissue and paper towels to soap and disinfectant.

3. Reduced Insurance Premiums

By transferring employees to SMS payroll, your workers’ compensation insurance premiums should decrease significantly.

Pest Control Strategies for Schools

May 9th, 2012

School Pest ControlThe warmer weather of spring means pests come out in full force. With insects searching for food, water, shelter and comfortable temperatures, your school might look like the perfect new residence. Read on for cleaning and maintenance strategies that will keep these six-legged tenants at bay.


  • Ants can easily enter your school through cracks and small openings in floors and around windows. Repair cracks and ensure doors and windows are properly sealed.
  • Ants aren’t picky about their food source, so be sure to keep surrounding parking lots and sidewalks clean, and empty and clean trashcans regularly.
  • Remind staff to keep their food in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator.
  • Repair leaky faucets, hoses and HVAC units to remove possible water sources.

Flying and Stinging Insects

  • Avoid using brightly colored and fragrant flowers that attract bees in your landscaping.
  • Use sodium vapor light bulbs rather than fluorescent or mercury vapor light bulbs outdoors, as flies are not as attracted to them.
  • Ensure that air flows out doorways, rather than in, to keep out flying insects. Test your airflow by standing in an open doorway while holding a piece of paper. The paper should blow away from the building. An HVAC professional can help you adjust the airflow of your facility if necessary.
  • In areas where doors are frequently kept open, create barriers for flying insects by installing air curtains or plastic strip curtains, or by positioning fans to blow outward.


  • Cockroaches can easily live and breed in the moist, unsanitary conditions of trash or dumpsters. Place dumpsters far away from your building, and clean and rotate them frequently to keep cockroaches from becoming permanent residents.
  • Cockroaches can successfully hitchhike from a student’s or staff member’s home, so clean and inspect lockers regularly.
  • Keep floors, walls and drains clean and free of build-up to remove possible food sources.
  • Repair wall cracks and seal crevices at floor-wall junctions to eliminate access points and hiding places.

By following these cleaning and maintenance strategies, you and your students, faculty and staff can enjoy the warm weather of spring without having to share your school with unwelcome guests.