The Kamloops-Thompson school board has approved a couple of new expenditures ahead of the next school year aimed at keeping schools clean amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
More janitors and hands-free washroom faucets account for more than $1 million the school district will spend next year alone as it responds to pandemic-related requirements.
The board on Monday approved spending $60,000 per year over the next three years to replace all manual washroom sink faucets with metering models. The faucets turn off automatically after a preset amount of time, requiring a user to touch the handle just once to turn on the tap.
In requesting the expenditure, school district facilities director Art MacDonald told trustees that given the COVID-19 pandemic, hand-washing has become a significant part of daily safe work procedures. The school district has been replacing its manual-use faucets over the years with either metering or sensor controlled faucets, which require no contact at all.
MacDonald estimated it will cost $182,000 total to replace the remaining manual faucets, advising that option over sensor-controlled faucets, which would cost $415,000 and need more maintenance as they require batteries for the sensors.
The district plans to place the new faucets in schools in phases over three years. Phase one will see the installation of at least one new faucet in every washroom and phase two will involve the remaining fixtures being installed.
“It may not be the most efficient thing to do … but we’re also cognizant of the fact we want to provide at least something to every school throughout the system,” MacDonald said.
The motion was approved unanimously, but trustees Diane Jules, Shelley Sim, Joe Small and Meghan Wade were absent from the meeting.
Approval of the new faucets comes on the heels of the board approving the addition of 17 full-time janitors for the 2020-2021 school year at a cost of just over $1 million a year. That cost is being covered by reserve funds in the operating budget. Any shortfall will require the district revisiting its budget in September.
Secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch said until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, the district will be required to increase its contact cleaning efforts to ensure schools are cleaned to the province’s new requirements while school is in session.
The additional 17 janitors will ensure the school district can provide full day shift coverage at all of its medium to large elementary and secondary schools next year. The addition, however, does not include providing full-time custodial coverage for schools with fewer than 100 students, which would require another two full-time positions, Stretch said.
Currently, elementary and small secondary schools in the school district have half-time day shift custodial coverage.
“We want to make sure that we have an adequate supply of custodians who can support healthy school environments during the day,” superintendent Alison Sidow said.
The new positions have been posted.