Mira Branham | Co Editor-in-Chief
Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic.
These words have been swirling around since the virus appeared early this year, but what is being done at Avon High School to combat the spread of the virus, now that classes are back in session?
According to Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Assistant Clinical Professor Cynthia Kaufman, the jury is still out on all the ways the novel coronavirus can be transmitted.
“The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19 can be transmitted many ways, the most common being person to person through respiratory droplets containing the virus, such as when someone coughs or sneezes,” Kaufman said. “Research is still being done to determine this, given the fact that this is a new virus – never having infected humans prior to this pandemic.”
After the decision was made to open schools within the Avon Community School Corporation, masks and social distancing included, a new concern arose: the use of specific cleaning supplies inside the buildings. The product designated by the administration was Sani-Tyze, and multiple spray bottles of the substance were provided for each teacher and their classrooms. Almost immediately, teachers questioned the effectiveness of the cleaner, and contacted both the company and AHS Principal Matthew Shockley.
The primary concern was with Sani-Tyze’s intended use, which is described as an anti-bacterial cleaning product. COVID-19 is a virus, so due to increased pushback from concerned parents and staff, the Avon Community School Corporation released a statement on July 29, which included the following:
“Our goal with Sani-Tyze is to keep surfaces as clean as possible throughout the day until our custodial team can disinfect these areas after students and staff are away from the buildings. This is a similar product to what is used in restaurants to clean and sanitize tables. The Department of Health indicated that the product used for the purpose of cleaning throughout the day was a helpful addition to our protocols and not required to be on the EPA-approved list.”
Avon Community School Corporation Superintendent Scott Wyndham said that, despite the concerns from adults, the primary focus of the district was keeping the thousands of students safe from the potentially harmful chemicals that are being used to kill the virus.
“[What] we’re doing at Avon High School is the same thing we’re doing at all 12 of our schools, and that is cleaning throughout the day, so that’s the Sani-Tyze product, and it’s safe to be used around students, around kids, and you don’t have to get suited up with PPE [personal protective equipment],” Wyndham said. “That’s what we were looking for, then knowing that at night, our custodians have been trained on how to disinfect using products that can’t be used when students are around.”
With the number of positive cases and staff and students quarantined rising among the schools, AHS spent the last few weeks altering the daily schedule, ultimately deciding on a temporary hybrid system. Wyndham said that the district continues to follow guidance from the Department of Health in terms of cleaning protocols and hasn’t had conversations about switching to different products.
One of the most frequent questions is why the schools don’t just use Clorox wipes, and Wyndham said there’s a couple of reasons for that.
“Number one, there’s been some news articles lately that brands like Clorox won’t be able to fill the demand for their products until 2021, so we knew we couldn’t have a plan that relied on them,” Wyndham said. “The other part is there is a problem sometimes with using disinfectant wipes that cause irritation for students and so if you read the direction labels, there’s very detailed steps on what to do and warnings about its use around young children.”
Alternatively, Kaufman said she recommends using a mixture of water and ten percent Clorox bleach to wipe down high-touch surfaces in classrooms and other places in school. In the clinical laboratory, where molecular testing is performed, they routinely use this bleach solution, which is made fresh each day to maintain an appropriate level of activity,
“Bleach will break apart the bonds holding the nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) together. This destroys the nucleic acid that may be present in a virus causing a pandemic, making it unable to propagate, or make new viruses,” Kaufman said. “This may leave a residue on the surface of objects that have been cleaned, so using a 70% alcohol solution after bleaching would remove the residue.”
As the school year progresses, Avon Community Schools said it hopes to flatten the curve and continue to educate students on safe and effective ways to attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities.