With so much emphasis lately on test scores and teaching methods – it’s a good time to remind school officials there’s still one strategy for student academic success that has never failed – simply making sure kids get to school.
On a recent school day in Dianne Taylor’s fourth grade class at Compton Unified School Districts’s (CUSD) Foster Elementary, she engaged students on a conversation about their health, specifically, staying healthy when cold and flu season comes around. Just like every other school in Southern California, when one student gets sick others always follow.
“What kind of things do we do when we get sick?” she asked the class. “You should drink lots of water,” one student offered. “Eat your fruits and vegetables,” said another. “What about washing our hands?” Mrs. Taylor suggested.
In fact, doctors and health professionals have long maintained the importance of good hygiene habits such as keeping hands clean, particularly in closed settings like classrooms, as a way to prevent the spread of germs and not getting sick.
“Whatever we touch we get germs,” says Mrs. Taylor. “And if we don’t clean our hands with soap and water or with sanitizer we can spread those germs everywhere. And if those germs spread then students get sick. And if they get sick then they can’t learn because they won’t be in school.”
“It’s very important that schools and households as well, have hand-washing techniques in place and easily accessible,” says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, pediatrician at St. John’s Well Family and Child Center. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a useful alternative.” Dr. Dasgupta also says making sure students know how to wash their hands properly is just as important.
Foster Elementary School Principal Jessicka Mears says they work closely with parents to keep students healthy and in school. “As the seasons change students begin to get sick and we try to minimize that. We communicate with home by suggesting things they can do at home. Here at school we encourage the students to drink lots of water, to wash their hands frequently and make sure they keep their germs to themselves.”
That’s why Compton Unified Board Member Micah Ali says the district’s partnership with Gojo Industries, makers of Purell hand sanitizer, has been effective. “We believe that Purell is a preventative measure where students can utilize hand sanitizer to zap those little cooties and make certain they are in their seats and ready to learn each day.”
The company installed hand sanitizers in several CUSD schools at no cost to the District, as part of a unique student hygiene project designed to help keep students healthy and in school.
“Compton is kind of an iconic place and there’s been such a turnaround story here,” says John DePace, a Gojo Industries spokesman. “We just thought they would be good partners. They were willing to invest their time, we were willing to invest our resources.”
The turnaround DePace is referring to is the recent academic success of the district on a national level in addition to higher test scores, graduation rates and college placement. John Brassfield, Jr. says he supports the project and advocates the clean-hands strategy at home with his grandson, a first-grader at Foster.
“We try to tell him, if another kid has a runny nose, stay way, and if they do (get close) wash your hands. Anything you touch, a pencil, door knob, chair, there’s germs there.”
Ramon Castro, another parent added: “I work in the medical field so I teach them the importance of hand washing. We don’t send our kids to school when they’re sick and don’t want them anywhere near sick kids as well.”
“We have hand sanitizer stations in every building,” says Principal Mears. “It’s available for all of our parents and scholars and staff. We encourage the students to use it before recess, before and after lunch. And it’s a great benefit to reach our goal of having every child at school every day.”