4 things to keep in mind while spending stimulus on PPE

Schools need to manage PPE inventory as the range of safety precautions have expanded
By: | April 5, 2021
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With the prospect of a fully vaccinated student body still a year away, PPE will continue to play a major role as district leaders plan for more in-person learning.

The good news is all three waves of school stimulus, including the recently passed American Rescue Plan, provide funds for districts to lock in more masks, hand sanitizer, plexiglass barriers and other PPE.

SDI, a supply chain management firm that works with schools, has created a risk assessment tool as well as a workbook that district leaders can use to plan PPE spending and build up a strategic reserve.

“School districts need to think about these essential items and their pandemic preparedness like they think about their nutrition program,” says Kelly Kleinfelder, SDI’s chief information officer. “They have to be more intentional

Here’s what district leaders should keep in mind as they acquire PPE:

1. The definition of PPE has expanded. Most people were focused on masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and “deep cleaning” at the outset of the pandemic. The spectrum of PPE  in schools has grown to include partitions, safety signage, air filters, UV lighting and electrostatic sprayers, Kleinfelder says.

2. Not all masks or hand sanitizers are created equal. Masks are rated on a 0 to 4 scale, and health officials encourage use of masks rated 2 or above, which is surgical grade, says James Palcik, director of education, safety and compliance at Flinn Scientific, which makes science kits for schools.

Mask user’s guide

Pandemic expert Devabhaktuni Srikrishna’s research has revealed that teachers and students need tight-fitting, high-filtration masks.

He has created Patient Knowhow, a website the features a research-backed list of the most effective hi-fi masks available.

The much-coveted N-95 masks have a rating of 3.

“Some schools are relying on student-provided masks,” Palcik says. “Administrators need to be mindful of whether students are washing cloth masks on daily basis. Most of the time, the answer is probably no.”

Some districts have shifted to supplying masks so all staff and students are wearing the same higher-rated model, Palcik says.

3. Schools need to manage PPE inventory. Waiting until there’s an outbreak has left some districts short of PPE. Kleinfelder says districts need to plan ahead and contract with a reliable supplier.

And, any inventory needs to be managed, as some PPE has expiration dates.

4. Online apps are also effective. Palcik say also urges districts to adopt online apps that allow staff and students to screen themselves for COVID symptoms every morning.

Those who report symptoms can continue on to school. Those who do report symptoms, must get a COVID or seek additional medical care.