Road Map for K-12 Education - Ten Strategies for Reducing Cross-Contamination on Surfaces

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Road Map for K-12 Education

Ten Strategies for Reducing CrossContamination on Surfaces Summer, 2020 V.1.0

Ten Strategies for Reducing CrossContamination on Surfaces These strategies focus on adapting educational spaces to support safe learning and student engagement while COVID-19 concerns last in a communituy. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is mainly spread by respiratory particles—often from a contaminated surface to hands then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Viral particles can survive on surfaces for days. Reducing surface contamination requires engagement from all school building occupants because custodial staff will not be able to clean all surfaces daily or between classes.


Ten Strategies for Reducing Cross-Contamination on Surfaces

If no cleaning efforts are taken, the virus remains infectious longer than an average school day. The half-life of SARS-CoV-2 on plastic is approximately seven hours, and it takes two days to achieve 99% reduction without cleaning or disinfecting. Similar to influenza, SARS-CoV-2 survival on surfaces is enhanced in low-humidity environments (with less than 50% relative humidity).

Educational Adaptation

Health Promotion

Risk Mitigation

Authors / Summer - 2020 Erika Eitland , ScD, MPH Research Analyst



01 ―Limit sharing in-class technology and supplies If students cough or sneeze on their learning tools and devices, they can spread the virus to other students and teachers by sharing contaminated supplies. nj  Each student should be supplied with their own materials, rather sharing them. If this is not possible, disinfect between uses. nj  Continue loaning devices to students. Due to spring closures, some districts provided students with laptops. These devices should continue to be used by only one student when schools reopen to optimize flexibility during unexpected closures or illness. This also reduces the need to share computers when students are in school.

02 ― Establish handwashing stations equipped with adequate soap and paper towels Frequent hand washing with soap reduces transmission from contaminated surfaces by removing viral particles on the hand that could be transferred to eyes, nose, or mouth. Health officials advise that hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers are linked to fewer absences due to infectious illness among students. nj  Request additional hand washing stations from community sources. Check out our case study from Denmark, where schools procured additional hand washing stations from postponed music festivals.

03 ― If hand washing facilities are unavailable, deploy hand sanitizer dispensers nj  Strategically locate sanitizer dispensers to reduce contamination of hightouch surfaces: doors, reception desk, waiting areas, classroom entrances, hallway intersections, etc. Placing hand sanitizer dispensers on or near elevators (and other key areas) will help.


Ten Strategies for Reducing Cross-Contamination on Surfaces

04 ― Reduce classroom clutter and remove extra furniture to assist with regular, thorough cleaning.

05 ― Post signage. Simple visual reminders can promote hand washing and teach students the importance of health behaviors in school. The CDC has developed several posters.⁵ nj  Using tape, label desk or seats that should not be used. This may be to indicate alternating desks during alternating class periods. Cleaning combined with reduced usage will decrease viral transmission via desktops. nj  Marking floors and walls can provide visual cues for what 6 feet looks like. In a hallway, a line down the middle or arrows can help ensure properly distanced circulation. Check out our Capacity Guidelines for more detailed information.



06 ― Establish “Clean Teams” nj  Starting even with our youngest students, use peer-to-peer learning to reinforce best hygiene practices (e.g. coughing into your elbow, encouraging hand washing, face covering protocols) nj  Use cleaning as a teaching tool. For example, a science class blacklight experiment can show students everything they touched. nj  Have students create classroom signage to promote best practices as a project-based learning (PBL) activity. nj  Limit the presence of external volunteers for classroom activities. Allow students to take on roles of the volunteer for leadership experience. nj  Have students engage in cleaning practices to create a sense of ownership within the space. Students should be responsible for throwing away their trash and wiping their own desks with a water and detergent solution between class periods. Students can also stack chairs on top of desks before the end of the day. ‒  State policies may limit the use of disinfectants and disinfecting wipes by non-custodial staff (e.g. students and teachers) because these products can be asthma triggers.

07 ― Have a plan to isolate or disinfect all packages or shipped received, including supply deliveries and packaged food.

08 ―Get parents involved early to reinforce healthy behaviors at home. nj  Have parents check for COVID signs and symptoms before students come to school in the morning to prevent exposure to other students and reduce the need for screening during the school day. At-home practice reinforces what is taught in shcool. 6

Ten Strategies for Reducing Cross-Contamination on Surfaces

09 ― Have students eat lunch in their classrooms or outside. Social distancing dramatically reduces the number of students who can eat in a cafeteria. Cafeterias create opportunities for cross-contamination if they were to be repeatedly used for food service. By using these spaces, it may also increase exposure for cafeteria staff. nj  Serve individually plated meals/box lunches and avoid buffet or selfserve meals whenever possible. Avoid sharing food and utensils. ‒  Eating in the classroom can increase contamination within the classroom. Students should clean their desks before and after eating. ‒  More (or larger) waste receptacles can be placed outside the door of the classroom to prevent food-related odors. ‒  Students with food allergies need to be documented early and given alternative eating arrangements. These students may be able to sit in the cafeteria, but keep in mind that this may create feelings of isolation.

10 ― Rethink physical education and youth sports. Activities that require shared equipment (e.g. protective gear, balls, bats, racquets, mats, or water bottles) can increase contact transmission. Heavy breathing by asymptomatic carriers can increase the spread of disease by viral particles exhaled onto equipment and hands. nj  A study of Chinese students returning to school nj  Avoid using locker rooms, which can be recommend that schools “Choose drills and

densely packed and make social distancing

exercises that encourage social distancing.”

difficult. On physical education class days,

nj  Avoid sport activities involving body contact between students or contact with shared equipment (e.g., balls, water bottles),

have students come to school appropriately dressed to participate in physical activity. nj  Sports teams should not travel to other

especially when resuming physical activity

communities and towns until better testing and


screening is available.

nj  Create innovative teaching strategies as needed, including Internet-based, virtual delivery of classes in order to minimize direct student-to-student and student-to-teacher contact.”


nj  Work with parents to encourage physical activity at home. nj  For more information, check out our guidance on Recess and Physical Education.

Currently designing or building a new school? Consider touchless fixtures (door, soap, toilets)—but choose carefully. Be cautious with touchless faucets. Faucet controls that operate on touchless eyes are known to contribute to Legionella, Pseudomonas and Aspergillus. Many healthcare institutions (including Johns Hopkins, a client of Perkins and Will) do not use them for this reason. Instead consider wrist blades or foot controls for faucets. Wrist blades may also physically conflict with mirrors that have a built-in shelf, so use care when selecting them.


Prioritize laminar faucets over aerator faucets. Faucets equipped with aerators harbor microbes and aerosolize the droplets where they can be inhaled. Laminar devices regulate flow and pressure without vaporization or splashing. Incorporate automation and voice activation tools in schools to reduce touchpoints and limit exposure to germs. Design door-free restroom entries or use hand-free door openings. Distribute dining options instead of a single large cafeteria, locate multiple food service options near classrooms or small group areas.

Ten Strategies for Reducing Cross-Contamination on Surfaces

― References ¹ ² ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ pdf ⁸


We are here to assist you in your return to school. For more information, please contact: Š 2020 The guidance provided on this site is based on the available information as of the date of publication and does not replace federal, state, or local public health recommendations but aggregates best practices and innovative solutions at the intersection of buildings and school health. We encourage schools to reach out and seek expert advice on their unique circumstances.