MAHOMET — The stomach flu, common cold and other illnesses can sneak into schools and spread easily as hundreds of students and educators come into contact, but the Mahomet-Seymour school district is focused on reducing student school days lost to illness.
Enter the totally cool sounding “Clorox Total 360 System.”
The electrostatic sprayer is designed to offer better protection from germs. Lincoln Trail Elementary School has a unit, and Middletown Prairie Elementary School received and started using one in mid-December.
“Basically, this machine will provide two different coverages of protection,” said Steve Curtis, director of facilities for Mahomet-Seymour. “We’ve got an area that does disinfectant, which can be used in general purpose and general applications in classrooms and furniture and floors and everything, but we can also have an application where we can use it in a food prep area to sanitize. The technology may not be new, but it may be new to this industry.
“It’s an electrostatic sprayer, so it takes the formulated chemical, gives it a negative charge, which allows it to break apart and then also attach to equipment, furniture and so forth that it’s applied to,” Curtis explained. “It’s a much broader coverage; the terminology ‘Total 360’ is because it will wrap around something 360 degrees. It’s a total coverage.”
Clorox isn’t the only company that has made such germ-fighting strides, but Curtis said the district has seen results so far with the Total 360 System, and officials hope to buy more for use across Mahomet-Seymour facilities.
“With their product, on a variety of different areas, we can disinfect germs from the flu to all sorts of things that I can’t pronounce,” Curtis said. “But they also have a successful kill rate, so an application can be done and within two minutes of drying time we would achieve the 98-99 percent kill rate that we’re looking for.
“Right now the district has two of these pieces of equipment. We’re hoping to get a couple more. It’s a budgetary thing — they’re not free.”
The average cost of the machine is about $4,000, but Mahomet-Seymour has paid several hundred less than that.
“We got a good price on it,” Curtis noted.
The goal is to reduce germs and, therefore, curb student absences due to illness.
“The operation is simple,” said Lincoln Trail custodian Kirk Nelson. He noted he can treat that entire school in about two hours.
“They’ve worked out great,” Curtis said. “We’re looking at using them in all applications in the schools. We’re trying to get each school (on a) monthly rotation so we will have been through every room at least once a month.
“We’re going to work the buses into (that rotation) as well. As we work our way into the high school, we’re really anxious to try them in the locker rooms and the athletic areas, the wrestling mats and so forth.”
Mahomet-Seymour High School already has a battery-powered handheld device to kill germs similar to the Total 360 System’s method, Curtis noted. That’s for use on wrestling mats, he added.
“This takes it to another level. This allows us to come into a room like (the cafeteria) and be done in a matter of minutes,” Curtis said. “The mist that it creates provides broad coverage. We can feasibly move through every room in a matter of a week or so per school.
“Ideally, we want to have two more units so each school can have one. Right now we’re kind of sharing between the two,” he added. “The popularity of the two pieces of equipment has been growing as the word gets out and the industry’s starting to have success with it.
“Is it a cure-all? There’s always going to be somebody sick. But anything we can do to help reduce the possibility, it’s a good thing. For right now, this thing has made it very easy to get in and disinfect and sanitize.”
The equipment saves work hours, too, he noted.
“We’re spraying (a mist) on everything; we’re not coming in and saturating everything with a total wet coverage, like you would with a spray and a rag. (That) takes longer to dry,” Curtis said. “(The Total 360 System) allows us a quick response. There’s no residue to worry about or anything like that.”
According to Clorox, its system helped reduce the absenteeism at one elementary school by 53 percent during a peak cold and flu month.