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KCSD: Music teacher followed protocol

Posted: February 1, 2018 4:28 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.

On Thursday, Jan. 25, Wateree Elementary School (WES) Principal Gail Stehle opened an email sent to her that afternoon from a concerned parent. The parent, whose child attends 4th Grade at WES, expressed their concern that recorders -- many students’ first wind instrument beyond a kazoo -- were being shared at a time when the county and district, along with the rest of South Carolina and the country, are experiencing one of the worst flu seasons during recent years.

According to Kershaw County School District Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd, while the music teacher followed protocol, in consultation with a school nurse, in cleaning the recorders and sterilizing their mouthpieces, Stehle decided to have the teacher stop using recorders altogether.

“She let the parent know that she understood her concern and that the activity would be suspended,” she said.

Byrd said recorders were only used at WES by 4th Grade students and that there are five 4th Grade classes at the school.

“One 4th Grade class goes to music each day. Class 1 goes on Monday, Class 2 on Tuesday, etc.,” she said.

The email sender’s daughter was part of a 4th Grade class that went to music on Jan. 24, Byrd said.

She added that recorders were not shared among students in the same class. Instead, the first 4th Grade class would use them on a Monday. The teacher would then clean the recorders and sterilize the mouthpieces, letting them dry overnight to be used by the next class on Tuesday. He would then repeat the process throughout the week.

“The teacher worked with the school nurse and used a sterilization solution specifically manufactured to keep instruments clean,” Byrd said.

According to Byrd, the cleaning process worked this way: First, the teacher washed down the entire recorder, mouthpiece included, with hot, soapy water. Second, he used a cleaning rod and cloth inside the recorder while submerged in the hot water, with the mouthpiece still attached to thoroughly clean the interior of the instrument. The teacher then placed the recorders in a tall plastic container, standing upright to air dry.

Afterward, the teacher would then use the instrument sterilization solution, which Byrd identified as Mi-T-Mist, manufactured by Roché-Thomas. Byrd said there are also several containers in the classroom: one to collect used recorders and one for the recorders after they are sterilized.

“The Mi-T-Mist spray can be used for multiples types (of) instruments with mouthpieces. The solution kills the remaining bacterial,” Byrd said.

According to Roché-Thomas’ website, the Dubuque, Iowa, company has specialized in developing instrument care products for more than 45 years. It describes Mi-T-Mist as “a topical antimicrobial designed to cleanse the mouthpiece and provide a refreshing agent that will remove residue build-up from the instrument.” The company said users should apply the fine mist spray to the mouthpiece and let it evaporate, which takes about 45 seconds. It can also be used inside the instrument by spraying liberally and then immediately swabbing. Roché-Thomas claims that Mi-T-Mist evaporates quickly, assisting in eliminating moisture.

On its website, Roché-Thomas provides safety data sheets on its products, including Mi-T-Mist, which states it is a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution, but listed no other ingredients.

With recorders no longer being used in WES’ music program, Byrd said 4th Grade students are focusing on music notation and rhythm using xylophones, metallophones and boomwhackers. Student are then applying that knowledge to poetry and world culture studies.

“We do have recorder classes in other schools across the district; they may be used at different grade levels than 4th Grade and may be taught at a different time of year,” Byrd said. “In some schools, students have purchased their own recorders or are the only ones using the recorder throughout the year, so these recorder programs are continuing. We have suspended the use of recorders that are being sterilized for use by more than one student in schools across the district and are reassessing the situation.

Byrd said students in middle and high school do not share instruments; they either rent or buy them.

She also talked about what measures the district is taking to combat the spread of flu in schools. All of the measures, she said, are based on S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control protocols.

“Going back to December, we’ve had our cleaning contractor, GCA, identify ‘touchpoints’ -- spots that are touched a lot -- and cleaning them more often,” Byrd said.

She said GCA is actually spending more staff time in schools, cleaning throughout the day -- in some cases, right behind students -- rather than just at the end of the day. On weekends, and during the recent winter break, the company has even been using fogging devices to help sterilize large areas, Byrd said.

“And, of course, we’ve also been talking to students about washing their hands as often as they can,” she said.

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