Kids in Nixa are set to start school on Aug. 24. Nixa Public Schools will offer seated classes five days per week, along with a virtual school option for families who want to stick with online education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students who choose to attend school in person will attend class in rooms that have been cleaned with some newly-purchased equipment.
Nixa Public Schools purchased two ultraviolet light disinfection machines from Puro Lighting. They cost $14,000 each, and have lifespans of about 10 years.
“It is a great investment tool for the district, and it helps to keep our kids and staff safe, so we’ll try to utilize them as much as possible,” Brandon Thomas, Assistant Facility Director for Nixa Public Schools
Thomas, a Nixa native who is also a parent of children in the school district, said he sees the UV machines as a safer alternative to chemical cleaning.
“It reduces the amount of chemical, and I think that’s a great thing within the schools,” Thomas said. “As a parent in the district myself, less chemical is always a great thing. It has a little bit of ease of mind for parents around here, because we’re not loading a classroom up with a bunch of chemical that the kids are going to be exposed to.”
That doesn’t mean that the UV machines are the only form of cleaning and sanitization happening in classrooms. Custodians have worked steadily throughout the summer cleaning and sanitizing schools across Nixa. They’ve also examined the air filtration systems in each building, switching to stronger air filters in all of the buildings.
Custodians frequently check classrooms once students leave for the day. They wipe high-touch surfaces like door handles, handrails and water fountains.
“I feel like our custodial staff has taken more pride because they feel like they are more appreciated, they are more vital, they have a greater purpose than what they had before. Everybody has got to pull their weight,” Thomas said. “As a whole, all of our staff has had more buy-in for everything that’s been going on.”
During summer school classes, custodians worked closely with teachers to put the machines to work in classrooms where kids showed signs of illness, in effort to mitigate the spread of sickness before it could take off through a class.
“We use them at each location to help in hot spots, whether it’s COVID or we have the flu, whatever the circumstance might be,” Thomas said.
Custodians and maintenance workers contracted with the school district through a company called Sodexo can place the machines in the middle of a room, up to about 500 square feet in size. The machine runs for 30 minutes per cycle, blasting pure ultraviolet light at any bacteria and virus-carrying matter that may have collected on floors, walls and surfaces.
According to Puro Lighting, ultraviolet light produces electromagnetic energy that can stop and destroy microorganisms’ ability to reproduce. It causes photo-chemical reactions in the germs’ DNA or viral RNA. The Puro machines use an array of UV light to kill a wide array of germs.
Thomas likes that the machines are portable, each set of four units is mounted on a cart. The training for Sodexo staff members was relatively simple. They place the machine, plug it into an electrical outlet, turn on the four units in sequence and leave the room.
“Due to the number of amps that it pulls, we have to turn them on individually, otherwise it may overload some of our breakers. Other than that, they’re fairly simple to operate,” Thomas said.
UV filter use doesn’t make any school germ-free. It doesn’t guarantee that kids won’t be exposed to viruses when they go to school, but at least it lessens the chances of germs living on surfaces in classrooms, where they can be transferred student-to-student.