Park University spends $1.5 million on equipment to keep classrooms safe

Shelby Adkins, Editor-In-Chief

PARKVILLE, MO– Park University brought students back to the Parkville campus in August, after the University was forced to close earlier this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. The re-opening was possible largely due to the reallocation of custodial staff and purchase of new disinfecting equipment.

“The reality is we spent somewhere north of 1-and-a-half million dollars preparing for all equipment we bought, like all the things of those centers where you can get the Germ-X stuff to wipe your hands down with,” Park University President Greg Gunderson, Ph.D., said.

The university purchased things like disposable masks and hand sanitizer stations for people on campus to use. Additionally, the university also purchased electrostatic disinfecting equipment to use in classrooms and public spaces on campus.

“We reduced the number of classrooms that we were using, because of social distancing requirements,” Dr. Gunderson said. “So, we reduced the amount of spaces to be cleaned and added more custodial staff, and we brought in the electrostatic equipment.”

The electrostatic tool disperses a mist that is positively charged, and when it reacts with all of the negatively charged items in the room it sanitizes the surfaces.

“That mist will envelop things; it will cover the top and bottom of a table, and they can come in and spray a room, and 15 minutes later the mist has dissipated, but it has disinfected the space,” Dr. Gunderson said. “So, that was a critical piece of equipment that we purchased. We have backpack units and hand-held battery-driven units that let us go into spaces between classes and do the type of disinfecting that is necessary to have addressed COVID.”

In addition to the introduction of the electrostatic disinfecting equipment, the requirement to wear masks has largely shaped how the university navigated the fall semester.

“The masks is what is the essential aspect,” Dr. Gunderson said. “We have to get 95 percent compliance with wearing masks for the masks to be truly effective. And so it is the 50-cent item that could undermine a million-and-a-half investment.”

Dr. Gunderson said his biggest concern with bringing students back to campus was the enforcement and acceptance of wearing masks, but he said that he has been pleased with the compliance so far.

“I have been incredibly pleased that we have seen good compliance with face masks, and we have seen students been willing and faculty to remind people to appropriately deploy them,” Dr. Gunderson said. “It is the single most critical aspect to maintain our good numbers that we have here so far on COVID.”