AKRON, Ohio — As districts everywhere try to make pandemic preparations for back to school, Akron Public Schools are trying something new.
The district is installing automatic sanitizing misters on its 100 buses, just days before the school year begins August 30th.
“It’s expensive to do it,” said Transportation Coordinator Bill Andexler. “Fortunately, we have the pandemic funds.” Andexler says they’ve invested half a million dollars on Trans Mist. That includes about $200,000 for the permanent systems installation, and about $300,000 for three years of a water-based sanitizing agent purchased in advance.
“We would probably still have done it if we didn’t have that money available, we just probably would have done it on a smaller scale. Instead of doing all 100 of our buses…at one time,” he said.
The district’s mechanics should be able to maintain the system simply and cheaply. But annual costs for the sanitizer are about 10 times what they were spending before. Previously drivers were responsible for the task with hand wands, mixing an alcohol-based cleaner themselves. When overused, the product was damaging dashboards and raising concerns about flammability.
“There was no guarantee it was being done, and there was no way to check it either,” said Andexler. Now Trans Mist’s usage is tracked through Bluetooth.
Anything that goes on a school bus must be approved by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which just signed off earlier this month. They expect other districts may follow suit.
“You can accomplish these goals in a variety of ways, but this one is innovative and practical for daily use,” said Summit County Public Health’s Tonia Burford. Burford is the director of environmental health.
“Cleaning and sanitizing is an essential tool to stop the spread of covid. You can do that in a variety of ways,” said Burford. “You can do it with good old-fashioned sprays and wiping down. The advantages of having a system like Akron has implemented, they can track is usage to make sure it’s done appropriately, and also, it’s automatic so it’s easier on the operators…what they’ve done in Akron is certainly going to speed up the process for them.”
Burford says the county has been working hand-in-hand with districts on a multi-layered approach. Some are investing in ionization systems in the classroom, which help creates particles that cling to the coronavirus or other contagions hanging in the air, helping to filter them out, and recycle fresh air in. These technologies work, but Burford says don't worry if your school doesn't have one, as there are many ways to accomplish the goal.
Andexler says this will be better for their equipment, drivers and kids – well worth the price of peace of mind. “Someday the masks were go away, hopefully. But I think the disinfecting, keeping the buses clean, cleaner than what they’d been, is going to stay,” he said. “If we can keep [the kids] in school, it’s all worth it.”
*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous report.