With plans to reopen schools in the fall, Jeffco Public Schools has been on the hunt for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies. The search for reusable and disposable masks, hand …
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With plans to reopen schools in the fall, Jeffco Public Schools has been on the hunt for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
The search for reusable and disposable masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, disinfectant, face shields, thermometers and Plexiglas began in late April, said Julie Wilken, director of the district's Department of Health Services.
And while the district is confident it will have the necessary supplies to open schools safely in August, Jeffco is still working to track down mass quantities of two items, sanitizing wipes and disposable gloves, Wilken said.
“They're difficult to find. We have placed several orders and they have been canceled,” Wilken said. "We are not sure (why). We think it was because other orders were being placed at the same time and then the inventory may not have been completely accurate, unfortunately."
Jeffco announced on July 8 that all students will have the option to return for full-time in-person schooling in the 2020-2021 academic year. The district isn't alone in its sizable need for safety supplies or in its difficulty in finding those supplies.
Josh Schirmer, the Denver area general manager at Buckeye International — which sells products including hospital-grade disinfectant and sanitizer — said the overall PPE industry has struggled to acquire some PPE products that are made outside of the United States. He specifically highlighted disposable gloves and disinfecting wipes.
That said, Buckeye manufactures the majority of its items in the states and has been able to fulfill various PPE orders for Jeffco Public Schools, Douglas County School District, Denver Public Schools, Littleton Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools and other area school districts, Schirmer said.
Several of these local districts — including Denver Public Schools and Douglas County School District — told Colorado Community Media they have been successful in finding the PPE they need for next school year.
As for Jeffco, the district already has a plan in place to ensure that even if it cannot find as much of a certain product as it would like, it can still open schools in the fall as intended, Wilken said.
“We will work around what we cannot get,” she said. “For example, gloves are only needed for cleaning and disinfecting items and in several situations, the same person may be cleaning — such as a teacher — so we will buy him or her reusable vinyl gloves.”
For surrounding districts still ordering PPE, Wilken had this advice to give:
“Consider the space for delivery; mass quantities arrive on pallets and will take up a considerable amount of space,” she said.
Further, “it is very difficult to track down,” she said of the PPE. “If districts haven't started, they need to start ASAP.”
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