Auburn Facilities enlists many safeguards, hires additional cleaning staff this fall

Published: September 22, 2020
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Along with initiating many other safety protocols, Auburn University’s Facilities Management Department this fall has contracted for an additional 35 full-time employees to assist with nightly cleanings of all classroom spaces on campus.

“That’s more than 300 classrooms that we're doing every single night,” said Dan Whatley, executive director of operations in Facilities Management. “And that's what that additional staff is primarily responsible for—coming in, in those evening hours, spraying down every classroom space and making sure that when the day starts that the students are in a space that's been cleaned and it's ready for them throughout the day.”

Part of that deep-cleaning process involves the use of an electrostatic misting machine.

“So, what it does is it takes our disinfecting chemicals that we use, charges it electrostatically and then it sprays it out in a small particulate mist,” Whatley said. “The electrostatic part of it allows it to adhere to what we're spraying it on and it stays on a lot longer. When you spray from a normal spray bottle, you'll see it run down the wall or fall off in drips. This allows it almost to stick directly to the surface. So, it lasts longer and it's more effective.”

Beyond nightly cleanings of classrooms, the university also has added additional hand sanitizer stations through campus buildings as well as disinfectant wipe stations for every classroom, instruction lab and study room on campus, allowing students to wipe down their desk and study areas. The Facilities Management Department also has worked hard to increase filtration and air flow on all heating and air systems and has installed signage throughout campus advising students and others of everything from the need to wear a face covering to proper spacing for social distancing to the permitted capacity of students in a given class or study room. An example of this can be easily seen in the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, where several small study rooms have a large “2” posted outside their door to notify students that only two people can share the space at any given time.

“We've been doing occupancy studies all the way across campus so that we know how many students should be able to be in each classroom and still keep appropriate physical distancing,” Whatley said. “We've done that in office suites and buildings as well, to be able to share with the campus community where the appropriate places are to be and really where they're not so that we can continue to keep people physically spaced but still here on campus and enjoying everything that Auburn has to offer.”

Facilities also has a special protocol for cleaning rooms or office space where a known case of COVID-19 exposure has occurred.

“What we have is an enhanced cleaning protocol,” Whatley said. “What we do is we come in with those electrostatic sprayers and we wipe down all of the different surfaces across any of the spaces that were occupied by the person who has tested positive. That'll include the walls all the way up to eight feet. What we're trying to do in that space is to make sure that we have eliminated the contact points that anyone coming back into the space afterwards might come in contact with.”

Whatley said the key goal is safety, adding “We've been extremely active trying to make sure that we're well prepared to be able to have a campus community here that's safe and healthy.”

And just as classes have been able to continue amid enhanced cleaning measures, Facilities Management has also moved forward on several building construction projects this year.

“We have plenty of construction that's continuing to happen across campus,” Whatley said, referring to the more than $284 million in capital construction projects underway such as a new Academic Classroom and Laboratory Complex as well as a new dining facility being constructed near Jordan-Hare Stadium and a new Engineering structures lab that’s taking shape on Samford Avenue. “So, there’s no slowdown on construction. And we're excited about all the new additions to campus that we have coming.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.