By Democrat reporter

West Dunbartonshire Council is supporting the Covid-19 response by appointing day cleaners for all primary schools, additional day cleaners for all secondary schools, and increasing evening cleaning in secondary schools.

The initial investment of approximately £300,000 will support the return to full-time education across the local authority on 12 August by reducing the risk of infection for pupils and staff, according to a statement issued by the Council today .

Under the plans each primary school will have a cleaner on site during the day to undertake regular and enhanced cleaning of high priority areas and frequently touched surfaces. The five large secondary schools and Kilpatrick, which already have day cleaners, will be allocated a second day cleaner to increase the impact during the busy school hours.

The cleaning teams on site each evening in primary schools will re-prioritise their work schedule to focus on touch-points such as door handles, stair-rails and main door panels. Meanwhile, the daily cleaning arrangements at Dumbarton Academy and OLSP will be increased to match those at the PPP secondary schools and Kilpatrick.

In total that will be an additional 1000 cleaning hours per week across West Dunbartonshire schools, and lead to the recruitment of 55 new employees on temporary contracts. This will benefit the local job market at a time when many businesses are struggling as a result of the lockdown restrictions.

In addition, to the recruitment a range of other approaches will also be in operation in the schools including:

  • Extensive promotion of hand cleaning for all staff and pupils
  • Extensive use of hand sanitisers
  • School resources handled by pupils and staff will be cleaned as required
  • Anti-bacterial spray and paper towels will be provided for staff and pupils to clean down their desks, chairs, keyboards and classroom surfaces

The Council’s Early Learning Centres also have daily cleaning regimes in place. Moving forward on site cleaning and facilities staff will ensure surfaces are wiped down on a regular basis.

Councillor Ian Dickson, Convener of Corporate Services, said: “We must take measures to reduce the risk of infection in our schools during the recovery phase. Cleaning is a key part of that and these extra resources will increase the level of cleaning taking place across all our schools by 1000 hours per week. The secondary benefit of new jobs for local people will also be significant at a time when opportunities elsewhere could be limited.”

Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Education, said: “Speaking as a parent, I know I am reassured to hear that there will be cleaners on site during the day in every primary school, and two in secondary schools, to wipe down busy touch-point areas. I’m also pleased to see the extensive provision of hand sanitisers and the planned promotion of hand-washing in our schools because we know that these measures will also be vital in controlling Covid-19.”

However, responding to the new report from Covid-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, which suggests “no distancing” will be required between students in primary or secondary schools, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said: “Teachers are understandably anxious about being in close proximity with large numbers of students while the rest of the country is told to maintain a safe social distance.  

“The guidance as it stands is too vague. It is important that there is a clear framework of how activities and contact tracing will work in practice within school settings. There are practical questions that can’t be left to chance. 

“In New Zealand, if a school or early learning service has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, they must close for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days. Teachers need reassurance that an equivalent plan will be developed and put in place so that outbreaks can be effectively contained.

“It is now less than a month before students and teachers will return to class. Expectations and restrictions need to be crystal clear if people are going to be able to teach and learn safely and efficiently.” 

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