Like a precision machine, a school cleaning program that operates at maximum efficiency and with minimal problems is a product of careful design. Ideally, a good program would use no inefficient tools, perform no redundant tasks and expend no unnecessary energy. This can only happen, though, through proper planning and follow-through.

A smart team-cleaning program is first created on paper, based on a building analysis. From this blueprint or schematic, the components of team cleaning-workers, tools, skills, schedules, job-card assignments and building areas or quadrants-are made to precisely mesh and coordinate, producing clean, healthy buildings at the lowest expenditure of time, energy and other resources.

Ultimate efficiency

Team cleaning deploys an "assembly line" of workers to clean in a manner that is fast, focused, duplicable and largely free from quality-control problems. The difference is, rather than the product moving down an assembly line, the labor moves.

Cleaning tasks typically are grouped into four distinct functions:

-Light-duty-Dusting, emptying trash, spot cleaning, etc.

-Vacuum-Vacuuming carpets and hard floors.

-Restroom-Cleaning, sanitizing and restocking restrooms.

-Utility-Cleaning glass, mopping and scrubbing floors, etc.

Team cleaning allows flexibility in staffing levels and in the size and complexity of the facility to which it is applied. One person can complete all steps of the team-cleaning process by performing each function in prescribed sequence, and can do so more quickly than in older systems, such as zone cleaning. In complex environments, teams may consist of up to seven workers. Most often, teams consist of between one and four workers who individually or collectively complete the four primary functions in a precise sequence that optimizes quality and speed.

Defining responsibility

In team cleaning, each of the four functions on the "production line" is well-defined. By design, the team system is a simple approach to cleaning. Training is straightforward and easy to understand, with few cleaning tasks to learn and perform. By focusing primarily on one type of work (while cross-training and rotating for flexibility), each team member becomes more skilled, more effective and more knowledgeable about safe, sound procedures for that job. Examples of job functions include:

-Light-duty. Empty trash and reinstall liners; dust all horizontal and vertical surfaces. Pick up paper clips, paper and pencils from floor; spot-clean door glass. Position trash in a strategic location for the utility specialist to pick up and take to the dumpster. Lay a clean liner down before placing a full trash liner on the floor. Lay the trash container on its side, and slowly remove the full liner. The above steps will prevent unnecessary spots and spills on floors, while preventing back stress.

-Vacuum. Check each trash can before vacuuming under it (double-check system). Vacuum all traffic areas, and spot-vacuum all other areas. Remove paper waste or other debris on furniture. Reposition all furniture correctly, turn out lights upon completion of the room and secure area as required.

-Restroom. Refill toilet tissue first, and then refill all other dispensers. Empty trash; clean and disinfect all fixtures and mirrors. Spot-clean and disinfect partitions and doors. Sweep and mop tile floors. Check all fixtures, and make a note of damaged or burned-out light bulbs.

-Utility. The utility function is the most varied. Often, utility tasks are completed by the school's building supervisor. This function has routine duties, but may also include other cleaning tasks, such as floor and carpet maintenance. Routine tasks are to polish stairs, vacuum stairwells, clean glass, pick up trash on specific floors or areas, spot-clean carpet and haul trash to the dumpster.