Improve table washing policies in NC schools

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Wake County Public School guidelines require the washing of cafeteria tables with water only, usually performed by the students themselves. As we approach a new school year, concerned parents continue to want to see changes made urgently to this policy to better sanitize the surfaces between classes using the tables. 

Other NC school system employees (outside of WCPSS) have reached out regarding their policies, looking to Wake County to make changes because their counties tend to use WCPSS as a model.

While the details of the petition below are specific to WCPSS, the goal is now to approach state officials to create an overarching policy for ALL NC counties and school systems. A policy that takes into account:

  • Current research surrounding the spread and elimination of infectious disease,
  • Other childcare environment requirements and procedures (i.e. daycares)
  • School systems that have an existing robust policy,
  • And the rising epidemic of food allergies and the need for clean surfaces for the safety of food allergic children.

Please sign if you are a concerned NC parent or citizen and would like to see improved policies within your school system or school. Feel free to leave details in the comments if your school handles cleaning thoroughly and where/how. Feel free to leave details if your school follows the same procedures as WCPSS. If you don't know, but just want to see a clean, safe environment for all of our students as they are eating and learning, sign and comment where you are from. 

Let's grow these numbers. Make connections. Start a movement. Our kids deserve this. ALL of them.

*This petition was originally created during the 2017 flu season, presented to the WCPSS School Board and unfortunately, after much follow up, they stand by their guidelines. There is no official WCPSS School Board policy surrounding this practice, but it is a guideline set forth by the health services division of our school system. 

As reported by local media and discussed by many Wake County parents during last year's dangerous flu season, the water-wiping-only policy of cafeteria tables is concerning to families. And most aren't even aware that this is the situation at hand.

The current guidelines of WCPSS will only allow water-wiping in cafeterias due to the rapid turn around of classes coming in and out for lunch. The tables are cleaned/sanitized when all students have completed breakfast or lunch for that day. It's explained that this is to protect the students from chemicals, especially those that may have a reaction. 

Recognizing with a such a large school district, there are many needs of thousands of students to consider. Those with contact dermatitis, asthma, food allergies and others must be accommodated along with those who would have no issue with the proper use of a cleaning agent by an adult.

We, as parents, are aware that germs are everywhere. And hand washing is the greatest way to prevent the spread of illness.

But without mandated hand washing before/after snack and lunch and the cleaning of surfaces with only water -- our children are put at even greater risk of contracting the flu (and other sickness) during what's already being predicted as a very dangerous flu season. 

We implore the leadership of the Wake County School System to look into alternatives for the proper cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing of eating surfaces in our schools immediately.

As parents, we want our voices heard.

We know that preschools and day cares are held to very high standards -- including in-classroom cleaning agents used safely among the children. We know that restaurants also have strict requirements for cleaning surfaces. And we know that the CDC has set forth very clear guidelines to help slow the spread of the flu in schools.

The National School Board Association also released guidelines for the management of food allergies for districts -- which includes related pieces WCPSS is not doing. Specifically: 

  • Re: table cleaning – “Monitor and enforce strict cleaning and sanitation policies and procedures. Train staff to use commercial cleaning solutions on tabletops and develop food handling and preparation protocols to avoid cross-contamination.” (pg 9)
  • Re: hand washing – “Promote hand washing before and after breakfast, lunch, and snacks.” And “Consistently implement appropriate hand washing procedures (note that hand sanitizers are not effective in removing the residue of known allergens).” (pg 9)

We need to see WCPSS guidelines changed, policy created, and the health services team to revisit their research for their current guidelines, especially during this year's upcoming flu season, to do a better job of meeting recommended guidelines.

But, we've seen we are going to have to PUSH any of our County's leadership to make any change.

We can't prevent all sickness. And we can't avoid all germs. But we can and do expect our school system to do a better job of helping -- in any and all ways possible -- to keep our kids healthy. 

Perhaps: Take the paper towels and water spray away from the kids in the cafeteria and get a cleaning agent into the hands of adults. Research safer alternatives to harsh cleaners (such a hydrogen peroxide based cleaner), if necessary. Encourage teachers to use cleaners in the classroom at any and all times. Mandate hand washing. Use the soap from the bathrooms which is already, apparently, deemed safe. Request parents to send in certain cleaning products if that's what it takes. We want our kids safe. And we want to feel that our school system supports us in this effort.

We plan to continue to spread the word. And don't plan to stop until change is made. Please read and learn about the environment your children are learning and eating in, and speak out. 

WCPSS is far behind the curve here. As the National School Board Notes, “People might initially resist making accommodations until they realize the life-threatening nature of the situation and the disruptions a health crisis can cause to the school day.” Which is exactly what the district is doing now.