Health and safety in the classroom has taken on a whole new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while everyone’s now familiar with the basics — wash your hands, clean the surfaces and ventilate the air — the recommended protocols have been constantly changing. Through it all, Staples Professional has been on the front lines, helping schools and post-secondary institutions adapt.
“Our ability to help schools navigate the rapidly changing environment is where we’ve really made an impact,” says Jamil Dibe, Vertical Sales Leader, Education, at Staples Professional. Take masks, for example. “Originally [the government] said, ‘don’t wear masks,’ and then they said, ‘wear masks,’ and then they said, ‘actually don’t just wear any mask, it needs to be a three-ply mask.’ We were able to work with schools and with our vendors to figure out what was actually available and what the market looked like for this product,” he says.
And that’s just one example. Here’s how Staples Professional is well prepared to continue to meet the education sector’s changing needs into the next school year, and beyond.
Signage: For both schools and post-secondary institutions, it’s important that people know how to get around safely and practice social distancing. “A big part of a safe return to school is communicating what the expectations and rules are,” says Dibe. That’s where signage can help. “Everything’s laid out and there’s a flow to it.”
Disinfecting: Schools have disinfecting down to a science: they know which surfaces need to be disinfected and when. Where they’re lacking though, is the manpower and budget to execute a good disinfecting plan. “There’s a lot of things we have to take into consideration. For example, how much staff do we need on hand per classroom now that we’re going to be sanitizing and disinfecting areas more often?” says Bryan Moore, Plant Operations Supervisor, Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
With an electrostatic sprayer, which turns disinfectant into an aerosol that’s attracted to surfaces, staff can disinfect surfaces at a much faster rate. Another product to help with budget-friendly disinfecting: a copper coating for high-touch surfaces that can kill viruses. “We’re working with a vendor that can put this coating on things like door handles,” says Dibe.
Air purification: The need for good ventilation and air purification wasn’t clear at the beginning of the pandemic, but it’s becoming an important element in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
“We have an assortment of air purification units perfectly suited for classroom and lecture halls,” says Dibe. “We’ve been doing a lot of work with post-secondary schools by not only supplying the machines but supporting their health and safety teams to ensure the right solutions are implemented.” Staples Professional also works with partners for the installation of the units and to conduct room or site audits to ensure the air is properly purified.
PPE Waste: One concern that’s come up with the new health and safety regulations for schools and post-secondary institutions is the enormous amount of waste that’s produced from PPE, such as disposable masks, gloves and gowns. “I had a client where this was a major concern for them because they want to teach students how to be stewards of the environment, but on the other hand, they are creating a massive environmental problem,” says Ryan Dunlop, Account Manager at Staples Professional. The solution? A partnership with TerraCycle to put boxes at schools and campuses so these items can be recycled. One school board which implemented TerraCycle diverted 850,000 units of masks and gloves from a landfill in just four months.
It’s all part of a strategy to be a go-to supplier for schools when it comes to health and safety. “We’ve partnered with the right people in the marketplace to ensure that we have product in stock and the knowledge within our sales team to make sure that customers are able to obtain what they need,” says Dibe.