KINGWOOD — “None of us dropped the ball.”
Preston Schools Superintendent defended his staff’s choices of cleaning solutions for classrooms and buses at Monday’s board of education meeting. The ball comment was in reference to a comment made by the board two weeks ago.
Last week two representatives of the Preston County Education Association (PCEA) said the solutions given to teachers to wipe off tables and desks would not kill COVID-19. Board members ordered the matter looked into.
Wotring was on vacation then but responded Monday.
“None of us dropped the ball,” Wotring said. His staff has “been working tirelessly to insure that [school] occurs in as safe an environment as possible. Unlike many, we actually researched what needs to be done to continually meet the needs of the schools.”
He quoted Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting schools.
It says routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease the presence of the virus on surfaces. “Additionally, disinfectants should not be applied on items used by children, especially when children will put their hands in their mouths,” he read from a CDC article.
These products should never be taken into the body or onto the skin. Daily, not all-day, cleaning of desks and other frequently touched surfaces is recommended.
Wotring also quoted from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which stresses face coverings, desks placed at least three feet apart, one-way hallways, hand washing and other precautions.
“Children should not be present when disinfectants are in use,” the academy said. It too recommended daily cleaning of surfaces.
“We have followed the guidelines, and under my watch, we will continue to do just that,” the superintendent said. “We continually look for new ways to meet the demand.”
And contrary to what he board was told last week, there are cleaners on hand, he said.
Board Member Jeff Zigray said he is concerned whether there are enough custodians to do normal cleaning plus the additional cleaning.
“It only needs done once a day, so part of that could be done with a spray,” Wotring said. Surfaces can be sprayed by custodians and let sit. It’s not necessary to wipe them down. But it can’t be sprayed on desks all day with students present because of possible harmful effects.
Are there products at school for teachers to clean with, if they want, Zigray asked. Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol products are recommended, Wotring said, and are there.
Facilities and Maintenance Director Matt Murray said the school system now has four different kinds of cleaners that are on the approved list.
Board President Jack Keim asked why many of the 42 PCEA members who responded to a survey said they didn’t know how to use the cleaning products?
Wotring said he spoke to groups of teachers before school started. Teachers do not have to wipe down everything between classes, he said.
Board Member Pam Feathers said the board was told buses weren’t being sanitized, which led her make the dropped the ball comment. Buses are disinfected, Murray said.
“We need to work together and not throw stones at one another,” Wotring said. “We can only rely on the experts to help guide us through these choppy seas. That is what we have done in Preston County Schools and just because a couple of people stand before you and say we haven’t doesn’t make it so.”
AS of Monday three students — one at Preston High, one at Bruceton School and one who attends Tucker County Schools — and one Preston school employee have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Wotring praised the Preston County Health Department for its work contact tracing and working with the system.