School Districts Struggle To Find Enough Cleaning Materials

As school districts ramp up their cleaning efforts to keep students and teachers healthy, many are struggling to stockpile enough cleaning supplies for the year.

Some superintendents said they're dealing with prices for cleaning supplies that are 2-3 times higher than normal. It's making getting them for the classrooms even more difficult.

As students across the state return to the classroom, new rules and safety measures will await them.

The state is using $10 million in federal funding to buy more than one million reusable masks, disposable gowns and gloves, and 40,000 face shields for school districts.

Cleaning supplies aren't included in that.

Some smaller districts like Webbers Falls said getting their hands on them is much harder now. Superintendent Chris Whelan said many cleaning supplies are on backorder, and they don't know when they'll arrive.

"Just having enough, we're a little bit fortunate, there's still some cleaning supplies left over from the flood last year, so we've got a fairly good amount, enough to last us maybe three weeks," Whelan said.

Community members decided to help by donating their own supplies.

"These folks are resilient, it's a great community, and they believe in our school, they back our school," Whelan said.

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said the burden should be on the state instead.

"So many teachers and support staff go out and buy their own supplies, that during this pandemic is not the time to rely on teachers to spend their own money and try to track down cleaning supplies," Priest said.

Priest said the state should use its weight to get cleaning supplies for district in bulk, like they're doing with PPE.

"It's just the sheer number of supplies needed that is problematic,” Priest said.  “That's why we've requested the governor use the state's supply chain to procure that.”