A webinar stressed the importance of using proven technology for cleaning on school buses and how districts can access federal funding to help pay for it.
Ken Hedgecock, the national sales manager at United Safety, noted that COVID-19 has become a significant part of student transporter considerations as they do their jobs. Focusing on student health allows a level of trust to be reestablished in parents, drivers, school administration and the community at large, he explained on May 25.
Hedgecock said that there has always been a need to make sure that air and surfaces on a school bus are kept safe. COVID-19 has brought this to the forefront, and it is likely that the threat will persist into the fall and the 2021-2022 school year, he predicted.
Meanwhile, Kaitlynne Monaghan, manager of business development for Child Check-Mate System, reviewed federal funding sources that can help districts fund the purchase of cleaning technology.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, which are part of the federal COVID-19 stimulus packages, specifically focus on K-12 education. The Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act allots funding for bus and motorcoach operators. Specific funds in the American Rescue Plan are also allotted for education and learning loss. Together, these programs offer a total of $189.5 billion for student education and support.
The federal government provides funding packages which are awarded to State Education Agency (SEAs), then to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and finally to the school districts. At each step, a plan must be provided on how the funding will be used.
Monaghan advised districts cooperate with their LEAs to determine what funding is available to them and any applicable deadlines. She said to start planning for what the funds will be used for. One aspect funding can be applied for is COVID-19’s impact on school transportation, such as buying cleaning supplies and training staff on their use. The treasury.gov website is a helpful resource for bus contractors to determine their eligibility and allowable uses of CERTS Act funds, she added.
“You can use the funding to create a safer environment for kids not just inside schools but also on the way to school, which I think has been grossly overlooked throughout the pandemic,” she said.
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United Safety, a self-proclaimed industry leader in safety-related products, has a global reach and already offers the child reminder system Child Check Mate and Fogmaker fire suppression system for school buses. It has now introduced two technologies to help combat COVID-19: Active Air Purification and Aegis.
Jeff Krueger, vice president of field operations for United Safety, explained that when the pandemic hit, United Safety started researching technologies that could protect children from bacteria and viruses. The focus was on implementing proven technology, reducing manual cleaning efforts, and cost-effectively creating a dynamic anti-microbial environment in school buses.
The company wanted to provide a cost-effective solution that cleans the air dynamically while students were on the buses, he shared.
United Safety’s Active Air uses PHI-Cell technology, which includes UV light and ions for continual sanitizing of the air and surfaces inside the school bus. It is safe for the driver and student passengers to be around, Krueger noted. He said that this is a more complete and safe solution than just using UV lights, an ionizer, or a fogging machine.
Third-party testing found that in a large room, PHI-cell technology reduced the SARS-CoV-2 virus by 99 percent on contact. Similar results were achieved in a “Sneeze Simulation Machine,” Krueger added.
Krueger explained that when installed on a school bus, Active Air does not need to be connected to the vehicle’s HVAC system. Besides fighting COVID-19, the quiet and effective system also reduces mold, mildew and bacteria. It can also be used in rooms such a drivers’ lounge, Hedgecock added.
Hedgecock said that the EPA-registered Aegis surface protectant is also a proven solution used in transit and medical applications. The Lysis technology in use creates a surface of microscopic spikes that microbials cannot stick to. When applied annually, it gives school bus surfaces 24/7/365 protection. It offers protection with no adverse effects on students or materials on the bus. It’s recommended for seats, windows, steering wheels, handrails and more – anything a driver or passenger may come into contact with.
Krueger added that the safety technology gives students, parents and transportation staff confidence – not just during COVID-19 but in applications such as the flu season.