Essential services continue to serve students despite closed campus

The Division of Facilities staff are able to work remotely and Facility Custodial Services come in once a week to clean buildings on campus. (File photo by John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

The Division of Facilities staff at Kansas State plays a pivotal role in keeping the university running on a day-to-day basis, even when students are gone.

While campus is closed, facilities staff are following social distancing guidelines while making sure everything is sanitary before students come back to campus.

Casey Lauer, assistant vice president for Facilities and Operations, said it has been a challenge, more so in some areas than others.

“We have a team that manages all of our building control systems so their work is mostly done on computers and laptops,” Lauer said. “They have been able to work this whole time and be pretty successful at that.”

However, people who work in custodial services have needed to come to campus, although not as frequently due to the reduced traffic. Their duties have been planned accordingly.

“For custodial service, we have reduced all of our staff to come in on Wednesdays and they can perform their duties with proper social distancing guidelines,” Lauer said. “They show up and basically knock out the entire campus and then they go home.”

To aid in the cleaning of campus both now and in the future, new technologies like electrostatic sprayers have been purchased. This allows the staff to go into buildings and disinfect “touch points” within a matter of minutes.

“It ramps up our ability to disinfect with a 99.99 percent kill rate of any bacteria or virus throughout the university,” Linda Craghead, director of Facility Custodial Services, said. “In the past, the way we have disinfected desks was to spray and wipe it off, but that doesn’t do as effective of a job as what we are using now.”

Another measure custodial staff will be taking is to give buildings a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.

Craghead anticipates that with remote classes taking place over the summer, it will allow the staff to come in during the summer months to do significant projects, such tending to worn floors and waxing surfaces.

“There will be a lot of project work that goes on in addition to getting in there and making sure that we will have everything disinfected for students when they come back,” Craghead said.

Housing and Dining is also finding ways to sanitize and make everything safer for students.

Derek Jackson, director of Housing and Dining, said they previously put into place COVID-19 procedures, such as requiring staff to wear personal protective equipment when working with chemicals and food service workers always wearing gloves when handling food products.

While working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment as well as the Environmental Health and Safety office on campus, additional protocols have been put into place for students, which revolve mostly around technology.

Like custodial staff, Housing and Dining has purchased machines that help sanitize surfaces and will benefit in places that are harder to clean in the Dining Centers.

“We have been able to adapt to these new standards, and our team has also,” Jackson said.