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Worcester Public Schools: Toxic Use Reduction Strategies for Pathogen and Asthma Reduction in Schools

Project Details

Year: 2018
Location: Worcester
Project Manager: Lynn Rose, Brian Corbley, Worcester Schools Nutrition, John Hennessy, Worcester Schools Transportation
Partners: MD Stetson


 The Worcester Public Schools (WPS) system is made up of 50 schools, 60 buildings, teaches over 25,000 students and employs approximately 3,000 teachers and staff.   WPS started developing an Environmental Management System in 2010 to reduce any environmental health and safety (EHS) risks to students and staff from facility operations and occupant activities, and achieve environmental compliance. In 2017, WPS applied for a community grant to help meet the goals and mission of the EMS to reduce toxics in all departments. They received a grant for School Nutrition (Food Service) and Transportation Departments. The grant included multiple goals.

School Nutrition (Food Service) Environmentally Preferable Cleaning and Disinfection and Integrated Pest Management
Special Education (SPED) Transportation Environmentally Preferable Cleaning and Disinfection

Over the course of the year, the Worcester school system reduced the number of cleaning products in use by 70%, established protocols for safe product use and storage, conducted multiple training programs, developed green purchasing specifications, cleaned out hazardous waste, reorganized chemical storage, and piloted personal protective equipment and emergency wash stations. In addition, they developed and piloted an Integrated Pest Management Program for the School Nutrition Department.

School Nutrition (Food Service)

WPS operates different types of food service facilities, full service food preparation facilities, and satellite receiving sites where the food prepared at the full-service facilities is warmed. The full-service kitchens require products and protocols for food preparation, cleanup and ware washing. Some, but not all, of the facilities have automatic dishwashers. All of the kitchens require both cleaning and sanitizing. The cleaning tasks are shared by the kitchen and custodial staff.

One ancillary, but essential goal was to establish standards and work practices to ensure continuity across the district using the same products and work and storage practices.

The project team implemented a systematic process:

  • Developed a scope of work and project plan for all involved with the project, including assigning roles and responsibilities
  • Developed specifications for Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) purchasing contracts
  • Identified EPP products
  • Piloted a 7 kitchen program with new, EPP cleaning products, dispensing systems and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Established protocols for the cleaning process, including the use of PPE
  • Obtained Safety Data Sheets for each product and aggregated them in an accessible space
  • Cleaned out and disposed of old products
  • Created new storage and dispensing systems
  • Conducted cleaning training for all kitchen staff, 252 employees
  • Implemented a Right to Know program
  • Followed up with a focus group and survey to determine level of acceptance and to fine tune the program

 The Food Service work also included development of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, including an inspection checklist, pest control protocols, and training.


The Transportation Department at WPS faced two challenges:

  1.  Greater potential for the transmission of infectious disease
  2.  Lack of standards and systems for selecting, using and storing cleaning and disinfecting products

(SPED) buses pose a unique risk for students, drivers and monitors. SPED students do not always have control over their bodily functions, and can transmit pathogens to one another, the drivers or the monitors. They also have a higher rate of hepatitis than the general population. The buses are challenging to clean because some areas are inaccessible. Quick and effective cleaning is essential to reduce contact disease transmission.

The Transportation Department did not have a centralized purchasing process; multiple products were used for the same application. And, there were no standardized protocols for when and how cleaning and disinfecting tasks were conducted.

WPS tested NaDCC in diluted form, using an electrostatic sprayer. Personal exposure monitors worn by the bus staff while cleaning, indicated that the combination was effective and significantly lessened the time required to clean. In addition, the staff used a hydrogen peroxide based cleaner for seat surfaces, walls, floors and windows. This product enabled them to minimize the number and types of products needed to clean all of the items.



This page updated Wednesday August 08 2018