Clarke County School District

LEAVING IT BETTER THAN WHEN SHE ARRIVED

We consistently survey our district staff and teachers asking them: do they believe our schools are cleaner? Today, 96% of them say yes.

Kimberly Thomas
Executive Director of
Plant Services and Custodial Operations
Clarke County School District in Athens, GA

Quick Facts

  • Public School District in Athens, GA with 25 Buildings
  • Top 10% of Districts in Science Proficiency
  • Member of Green Clean Schools Leadership Council
  • One of Highest Rates of H.S. Graduation in GA

Photo credit: Cassie Wright

Clarke County Sschool District logo

Photo credit: Cassie Wright

“I like technology,” shares Thomas.  “Specifically, I think using and implementing technology is one great way to leave a place better than when I arrived.”  And that’s exactly what Thomas is doing in the Clarke County Public School District.

Thomas arrived in the district five years ago after spending 20 years at the University of Georgia (working in areas such as Student Affairs, Campus Police, and the last 5 as the assistant director of Facilities Management). She brought with her a desire to create a healthier environment, to offer better service, and to instill a sense of pride in her staff of 155.

“When I arrived,” explains Thomas, "I had a new elementary school coming on and I decided to use that school as my pilot for a new engineered water technology.  I chose an environment with the youngest students because they are the best germ carriers,” she says with a laugh.

Thomas’ efforts to move from traditional cleaning and sanitizing chemicals to sustainable green cleaning products was not without hurdles, however. “At first, I tried a green product based on the onsite production of a cleaner and sanitizer, but there were two issues:  it was complicated and my staff had problems consistently mixing the product correctly - and it still introduced a type of chemical into our schools,” she explains.  “So I did more research, I found aqueous ozone, and began testing that at the elementary school.”

Research is critical for Thomas.  “I would never, ever try anything new without 3rd party verification or credentials behind it. I wouldn’t touch it,” she stresses.  “So you can be sure I researched as much as I could before bringing in the aqueous ozone.”

Photo credit: Cassie Wright

Thomas spent a year cleaning and sanitizing classrooms, bathrooms, cafeterias, hallways and more with the innovative ozone/water mixture. “Of course, reducing our chemicals helps us in our goal to create a healthier environment. But our leadership keeps a strong eye on the financials too. Eliminating stock piles of chemicals absolutely helps our bottom line.”

Thomas involved 3rd party experts to monitor the testing as well as following ISSA cleaning standards throughout the testing. After a year, she was satisfied:  aqueous ozone was cleaning as well as or better than the previous products. She decided to formally make the switch.

Today, facility leaders from as far away as South Carolina, Florida and even New York City visit Thomas to learn about her innovative program. Her plan is to convert three to four of her schools per year from chemicals to aqueous ozone.

“We have three overall objectives with this:  first, reduce the number of products in use which reduces my staff’s learning curve that will still provide a healthier learning environment. Second, we must enhance employee safety. Finally, and in some ways most importantly, we have to save money,” she explains.  “Our aqueous ozone program helps us achieve all three.”