The Newark Public School District, with a student population of more than 40,000 and more than 80 schools, is the largest school system in New Jersey. The district employs more than 500 staff in its custodial operation. Studies have indicated that cleanliness is an attribute that directly supports student health and development, learning and productivity in schools. Because of the impact a clean environment has on students, Newark Public Schools initiated a green cleaning program in 2006. A pilot program was instituted to determine how well Green Seal-certified products would perform in an urban school district with buildings averaging more than 85 years in age. The pilot proved to be successful, and the products were quickly accepted by the staff as a less toxic alternative to the harsh chemicals they had previously been using. The district has removed chemicals that had the potential to cause “asthma triggers” and allergic reactions to chemically sensitive students and staff.

As a part of the green cleaning program, the district replaced more than a dozen products with a concentrated general purpose cleaner, which is blended through a metered dispensing system, thus eliminating excessive waste and product use, as well as reducing container sizes and handling.

Vibrating-action battery-operated scrubbers, which will clean with plain water and/or extremely little cleaner, now are used on a routine rotational basis throughout the district. This has improved the appearance of schools and has helped keep facilities presentable even with a budget-reduced labor force.

Traditional mops have been for the most part replaced with a two-bucket microfiber cleaning system and color-coded microfiber cleaning cloths. Microfiber applicator pads are used with a dispensing system to apply floor finish, eliminating even more waste. This color-coded system helps prevent inadvertent cross-contamination. Less equipment, less water and fewer chemicals are being used, saving the district money while improving indoor air quality.

In restrooms, hot-air hand dryers, hands-free paper-towel dispensers, automatic soap dispensers and touchfree faucets have begun to replace traditional dispensers. Custodians use a no-touch cart-mounted cleaning system on a rotational basis to deep-clean bathrooms on a regular basis using plain water.

All paper products used in the restrooms are made from a high concentration of recycled fibers. Wastecan liners are manufactured with post-industrial plastics.

All custodians receive ongoing in-service training on products and equipment, as well as equipment maintenance and procedures. The goal is to train custodial supervisors to use ultraviolent light units when inspecting restrooms and other areas for cleanliness, as well as monitoring swabs to determine bacterial counts.

Green floor finishes and green floor finish strippers are being tested throughout the district. New buildings have been constructed with no-wax flooring, waterless urinals, motion sensors, automatic flush valves and touchless faucets.

Integrated pest management has been adopted formally by the district. This program uses the least-toxic methods to control pests and vermin in our schools. Chemicals when necessary require a 72-hour use notification to students, parents and staff.

The Newark Public School District has been recycling for the last 15 years. In 2009, the district recycled 806 tons of recyclable items at a total cost of $320,798. Presently, the district is recycling paper, bottles, plastic, cans, cardboard, fluorescent bulbs, batteries, tires and motor oil. The recycling coordinator visits all district schools on a regular basis and provides presentations to students by request. The district also provides recycling education and has assisted with establishing several recycling clubs throughout the district.

The district also has participated in citywide events, such as Gateway to a Cleaner Community, and The Kid’s Day Event, which travels from city to city within New Jersey. It also has just started the enrolling process of the New Jersey’s 2010 Recycling Poetry Contest. Recycling bins used for paper and cardboard are in the halls, copy rooms, offices and every classroom.

Three recently renovated athletic stadiums incorporated synthetic turf playing fields to eliminate pesticides and high water usage. This provides sustainable outdoor play space and results in less grass cutting and pollution.

A preventive-maintenance system is utilized to ensure that all unit ventilators and large air-handling units are serviced and the filters are changed.

The use of paradichlorobenzene containing deodorant cakes in urinals has been eliminated.

Newark Public Schools has developed a continual approach to the improvement of the custodial operations by developing an administrative review committee that meets to discuss the progress of the programs that have been established to elevate the level of cleanliness in district schools. This ongoing monitoring has proved to be successful. Newark Public School Facility Maintenance Review Committee of custodial operations has an open line of communication, which allows for seminars and presentations with participation and demonstrations of new products and machinery to be presented to staff and their facilities, as well as modifications and upgrades being implemented. All new staff are trained by experienced personnel and management, through both hands-on and video/slide presentations of all aspect of the district’s standards for floor care.

The Newark Public Schools had developed a program that allows for the weekly evaluation of the district’s cleaning process by the general custodial supervisors. This QA allows for any areas of concern to be addressed and acted upon. Newark Public Schools has instituted a training program that allows for the growth of all custodial staff to develop their full potential, and assist in the evaluation and growth within the district.

The school district has received the ASBO Facilities Masters Award four times (2005,06,07,08) and the EPA Tools for Schools Excellence Award in 2008 and the EPA National Mentorship Award in January 2010 for its efforts to foster a green and clean indoor air quality environment. In addition, the district received recognition from the Adult and Pediatric Association of New Jersey for its efforts to reduce asthma triggers in our schools.

Story of innovation—Policy Review: Newark Public Schools has developed a continual approach to the improvement of custodial operations by developing an administrative review committee that meets to discuss the progress of the programs that have been established to elevate the level of cleanliness in district schools. All new staff are trained by experienced personnel and management, through both hands-on and video/slide presentations of all aspects of the district’s standards for floor care.

Program Information

Number of students: 39,500

Square footage maintained: 8,909,309

Number of full-time custodians: 508

Annual cleaning budget: $37,107,505.44

Green cleaning team members: Steve Morlino, Executive Director; Kevin Williams, Asst. Director, Support Services; 156 Head Custodians; Eric Ebron, Woody Grady, Clement Collins, Michael Burton, Regional General Supervisors of Custodians; 352 Custodial Workers; Milton Mathis, Carlos Edmundo, Alan Liloia, Dennis Liloia, Regional Building Managers; Warren Williams Sr., Evening Supervisor