Back to School Brings COVID-19 Concerns and Indoor Environmental Quality Challenges

There are over 130,000 K-12 schools across the United States according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Over the coming weeks, countless students and teachers will be returning to classrooms, or to variations of online and in-person learning, to begin the new school year.

This year brings unique health and safety issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection control and social distancing will be the new norm in addition to indoor environmental quality (IEQ) concerns which have challenged so many school districts, including lead in drinking water, mold and other indoor air quality problems.

A top priority for school administrators will be the ongoing cleaning and disinfecting of their facilities. To help in these efforts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidance to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Recommendations include the following:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) within the school and on school buses at least daily or between use as much as possible. Use of shared objects (e.g., gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, toys, games) should be limited when possible or cleaned between use.
  • If transport vehicles (e.g., buses) are used by the school, drivers should practice all safety actions and protocols as indicated for other staff (e.g., hand hygiene, cloth face coverings). CDC also offers specific bus transit guidance for cleaning and disinfecting school buses or other transport vehicles.
  • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing products securely away from children. Use products that meet EPA disinfection criteria.
  • Cleaning products should not be used near children, and staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent children or themselves from inhaling toxic fumes.

“In addition to COVID-19, another area of unease for many parents and teachers involves the growing use of portable classrooms, many of which have become permanent fixtures on school campuses,” said Franco Seif, President of Clark Seif Clark (CSC). “Portable classrooms can present unique infection control and IEQ issues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the most common problems with portable classrooms include poorly functioning HVAC systems that provide minimal ventilation with outside air; poor acoustics from loud ventilation systems; chemical off-gassing from pressed wood and other high-emission materials; water entry and mold growth; and site pollution from nearby parking lots or loading areas. At CSC, our teams of IEQ professionals and industrial hygienists are assisting schools with environmental testing, training and consulting. These services help to ensure infection control initiatives are effectively mitigating coronavirus exposure risks and that building occupants are exposed to a healthy indoor environment.”

CSC has sponsored several online videos about COVID-19 exposure risks and recently provided their support for an educational production about portable classrooms and IEQ that can be seen at: or call (800) 807-1118.

About Clark Seif Clark
CSC was established in 1989 to help clients in both public and private sectors address indoor air quality, occupational, environmental, and health and safety (EH&S) issues. CSC is a leading provider of these services with multiple offices along the western seaboard and southwest. The company believes in science-based protocols and has a strong background in engineering, making them the preferred environmental consultants to industrial clients, healthcare facilities, architects, schools, builders, contractors, developers and real estate professionals.