(The Livingston Parish News) – In an attempt to ensure clean campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Livingston Parish Public Schools system has implemented a new testing procedure that assesses the cleanliness level of surfaces in the school district’s classrooms and buildings.

Professionals are using ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate, meters to measure relative light units that can rapidly identify living organisms on inanimate surfaces, according to a release from the school system.

ATP is an energy molecule that is present in all living cells. If it is alive or was once alive, the cell contains ATP, something that is true for animal cells, plant cells, and bacterial cells.

A measurement of ATP can quickly correlate to a measurement of how clean a surface is: The less ATP, the less contaminants that are present and the cleaner the surface.

“We are conducting routine tests on our campuses to determine how effective our cleaning efforts are and where there might be areas that we’ve missed or need to address more vigorously,” said risk management coordinator Wendy Gill in a statement.

The new testing procedure continues the district’s — and to a larger degree, the state’s — efforts to keep school campuses clean during the coronavirus public health emergency.

As part of the “LPPS Start Strong” reopening plan, classrooms will be cleaned daily; bottles, trash, food containers, used wipes, cleaning supplies will be emptied as often as possible; and all classrooms are being disinfected frequently with either the 360 Clorox Electrostatic Sprayer or the Victory Electrostatic Sprayer.

At each student transition, students are encouraged to wash hands or use hand sanitizer, and they are responsible for assisting with disinfecting their individual work area at each transition to prepare for the next group’s arrival. Students are to be given multiple opportunities to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer throughout the day.

In addition to daily cleaning of classrooms, each school bus operator is required to sanitize the school bus after each individual route.

This past summer, the school system contracted Guarantee Restoration Services, a restoration company in the Gulf Coast for more than four decades, to clean and disinfect every classroom and bus in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The company managed much of the cleanup in the parish following the August 2016 flood, when multiple campuses were ravaged by flood waters.

“We have made every effort to ensure Livingston Schools will offer quality instruction and educational opportunities for all our students, no matter their individual circumstance,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said back in July.

“At the same time, we are following guidelines, working to create cleaner, safer environments and supporting healthier choices and habits to ensure our schools remain safe for everyone.”

That mission to keep campuses clean has resulted in the new testing procedure, which is requiring campuses “to measure up to hospital-grade scores,” according to a press release from the school system.

Gill said the ATP meter testing is done in 10 common traffic areas on every campus: the front main entry door, the waiting area in the front office, the cafeteria, the library, the school’s isolation room, and five random classrooms.

Of the 170 tests conducted at 17 school sites tested as of last week, Gill said only a total of eight sites had areas on their campuses that had to be re-treated. The rest had no areas that scored below a hospital grade sanitizing level.

Gill said the district is currently testing its remaining campuses. There are a total of 43 schools and learning campuses in Livingston Parish.

“Our policy is that if one to three of the targeted areas on a campus do not score at hospital grade on the test, then we fog the high touch points in the rooms that failed with disinfectant and the protective coating,” Gill said.

“If four or more of the targeted areas do not meet that score, then high touch points in the entire school are fogged with disinfectant and PREVNT is reapplied as well.”

If an entire school needs to be treated, Gill said a professional cleaning crew can have the job completed “that same evening” in most cases. If the size of the school does not allow treatment to be completed in a single evening, she said professionals would do the treatment on a Saturday.

“The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are our No. 1 priority,” said Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill. “We want to create healthy environments where learning can flourish.

“To do that, we have to be sure that we’re taking the right steps that are needed. That is why it’s so important that we are checking our cleaning efforts with this testing procedure.”

Gill said the district’s cleaning effort includes a series of disinfectant products and procedures.

The first step, Gill said, is for all rooms to be sprayed with PREVNT. This product’s main ingredient is Titanium Dioxide, which is used in products like candy, donut toppings, and toothpaste.

PREVNT creates a protective coating on surfaces to lessen the ability of bacteria and viruses to easily attach to objects.

These “protected” surfaces are sprayed with disinfectant daily, and often multiple times a day, with an electrostatic sprayer that magnetizes the liquid to better attach to objects.

At the same time, Gill said teachers are equipped with spray bottles of Bioesque, a botanical disinfectant with the active ingredient of Thymol, that they can use to sanitize high-traffic areas.

Students are also provided with baby wipes to clean surfaces in their immediate learning areas prior to leaving the classroom. The wipes are non-abrasive and safe for students, and they help to keep surfaces clean without chemically breaking down the protective coating that has been sprayed onto the surfaces.

Gill said the multi-layered cleaning procedures were put in place at the recommendation of the national Centers for Disease Control and the Louisiana Department of Education and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.