“Disinfectant is the word of the month,” said Glen Wood, Wadena-Deer Creek elementary school head custodian.

This month the custodian teams at the schools are adding hand sanitizer outside of classrooms, posting signs about social distancing and mask wearing and arranging classrooms for students and teachers to return.

The schools began collecting supplies in June to join the regular pallets of toilet paper and paper towels that the schools keep in stock. The deep cleaning started at the beginning of April instead of June and has continued on, according to Wood and middle high school head custodian Curt Rentz.


"We are ready to become a school again."

- Glen Wood


“It has been a challenging few months. First - weeks of not knowing if students would be returning before graduation and now the uncertainty of what education will look like this September,” Rentz said in an email statement.

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With an early start on the deep cleaning, the middle high school custodian team of six split into two crews to prevent cleaning from being halted by a possible spread of the coronavirus, according to Rentz. The crews cleaned and sanitized classrooms and less touched surfaces and designated areas as restricted access areas to again limit possible contamination.

Wood said the custodian team of six at the elementary school cleaned and disinfected the rooms and cleaned every touchable surface daily. And at the beginning of the pandemic, the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines were updating daily causing a “very hectic” time, according to Wood.

“We are ready to become a school again,” Wood said.

One of the challenges across the United States is acquiring the supplies needed, like hand sanitizer and soap.

“It’s been very stressful because we’re not getting what we need to start … but all those supplies are slowly coming into us weekly. So we’re ready to start,” Wood said.

With the next two weeks being “extremely, extremely busy,” the elementary hallways are crowded with furniture cleared out of rooms with group desks and items that can’t be sanitized, as Wood said. The custodian team brings desks out of storage, cleans them and places them 6 feet apart, with classrooms of 18 students instead of 20-22 at the elementary.

Students will be greeted with hand sanitizers outside classroom doors and desks all facing the front of the classroom.

With desks pulled out of storage to replace group desks, there is space for 18 students per classroom at the elementary. Many classrooms across the United States will look like this with desks six feet apart and students all facing the front.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
With desks pulled out of storage to replace group desks, there is space for 18 students per classroom at the elementary. Many classrooms across the United States will look like this with desks six feet apart and students all facing the front. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

The health and safety measures, however, mean that students can return to in-person learning, as W-DC staff members have noted. Wood and Rentz also hope the cleaning measures help decrease flu cases.

“WDC MS/HS has been known for a pretty low percentage of student body out sick in the past cold/ flu seasons and following these enhanced cleaning practices I am confident we will continue that tradition,” Rentz said in an email statement.

The teams are looking forward to “a normalcy” while having a safe school setting, according to Wood and Rentz.

“A school is not a school without children, it’s just a building,” Wood said. “It’s my job to make sure that they get that education in a safe and warm environment and if that’s putting hand sanitizers up and making sure doors are locked or disinfecting every room to make sure there’s no germs or viruses in that, that’s what we do.”