On August 13 2007, the Green Cleaning Schools Act became effective in the state of Illinois. The law required the use of environmentally sensitive cleaning and maintenance products in all public and non-public elementary and secondary schools with 50 or more students. Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 sprung into action and became the first green school district in the state to achieve Gold status with the Schools of Illinois Public Cooperative.
“We moved to microfiber, green chemicals, and dispensing systems,” said Jerry Christopherson, Building Manager for York High School and purchasing manager for the green schools initiative.
“We work to create a healthy environment that is safer, not only for my staff, but also all the students and teachers and administration.”
But Elmhurst schools didn’t stop at complying with state law; they took it further. Over the last decade, the district’s eight elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school, and two additional locations have continued to transition to healthier and more efficient maintenance methods and products, most recently switching from upright vacuums to ProTeam® Super Coach Pro® backpack vacuums at the end of 2016.
This latest initiative started when Christopherson and the other managers attended a ProTeam demonstration and were impressed. They learned that according to ISSA Cleaning Times backpack vacuums clean two to three times faster than upright vacuums. Christopherson also realized that upright vacuums put asymmetrical stress on one arm causing strain and fatigue after several hours of vacuuming.
He enlisted the help of ProTeam representatives when rolling the backpack vacuums out to his staff. At first, the staff hesitated.
“They thought the backpack vacuum would be heavy, and, actually, it isn’t. They thought it would be more work, and it turned out to be easier work,” said Christopherson. “Once they tried it, they changed their minds.”
The staff started by using the backpack vacuums in the same areas that they used uprights, on carpeting in offices, resource centers, and libraries. Then they applied them to some detail cleaning and began vacuuming stairways where brooms had been kicking up as much dust into the air as they were able to capture in dustpans. Next, they plan to transition the backpack vacuums to more areas with hard flooring.
“I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive boss and school board. It helped that we’ve been able to keep it in our budgets,” said Christopherson. “We didn’t have to ask for extra money, because we phased the changes over several years.”