With school districts across Texas closing due to flu outbreaks, Waxahachie ISD has taken extra precautions to eliminate germs and viruses with a new, handy cleaning device.

In December, WISD purchased nine handheld Protexus Electrostatic sprayers and a backpack version of the sanitizing machine. The equipment is shared across the district, disinfecting classrooms, administrative buildings and gyms.

Ruthe Valles, the custodian coordinator for the district, explained, “We spend less time, and we save more time to do the whole school. I believe this will also catch anything that my custodians might have missed. This will reach spaces that they are not able to reach.”

To demonstrate the sprayer's 360-degree reach around objects, Valles held a stapler in the air with a piece of paper taped to the back. She then sprayed the side of the stapler on the opposite side of the paper. When she turned around the stapler, it was very easy to see that the paper and all sides of the stapler were wet.

When the custodians do their scheduled cleaning routine, the contents sprayed out of the handheld acts as a third layer of protection and disinfectant. Valles pointed out that a custodian can knock out six classrooms in a half hour with the handheld and 50 buses in two hours with the backpack.

Before this light-weight device, custodians would use a machine with the same concept but more hassle. The metal, fogging machine needed to be plugged in and the user could not be in the room while it operated.

The chemicals used in the sprayer are safe on technology and won’t stain clothing.

“We get good compliments in the morning because when teachers open the doors, you can still smell the freshness,” Valles elaborated.

Since the staff has used the device for a couple of months, Valles concluded that pairing the WISD custodial team and the equipment together has been proactive. Valles also mentioned if there's a trend in the number of students in a classroom that are out sick, then the staff will plan to sanitize the room that day.

“Our goal is to have a clean, sanitized environment for students for them to not get sick easily. We are doing what it takes for them to come to school and not get ill,” Valles iterated.

The handheld sprayer is valued at $700 while the backpack costs $1,500. Waxahachie ISD Director of Public Relations Jenny Bridges said, “We think it’s a really important investment keeping our students healthy. We are thankful to our board [of trustees] that they allowed us to invest in things like this.”

Bridges added that the number of students to miss school this year is comparable to previous years.

“We have not seen a big difference in our attendance since January of 2017 to January of '18, so we think that the things we are doing are working," she added.

Other schools in the district are taking a proactive effort into minimizing illnesses. Shackelford and Felty Elementary have started the FLUency program, which offers parents a smart thermometer and an app to help detect illnesses carried in the school.

Shackelford Principal Theresa Burkhalter stated 242 families are currently participating in the FLUency program, which is about 40 percent of their student population. Even though the program is in the early stages, Burkhalter noticed parents reported a few cases of the flu, strep and stomach viruses circulating through the district.

“I am looking forward to seeing an even greater impact in the coming months,” Burkhalter expressed.

At Felty, 157 families are participating. Felty Principal Carrie Kazda said she’s already noticed parents entering data.

“Within that information, I can see how many students in my child’s grade level have had headaches, chills, and earaches,” Kazda said. “I can also see the campus-wide data of how many have a cold, allergies, flu and strep throat.”

Along with educating the students on how to limit germs, Bridges wants to remind parents that students should only return to school after their child’s fever has ended for 24 hours without Tylenol or Motrin.

Ashley Ford | Facebook | Twitter | 469-514-1450