EAST GREENWICH – On Tuesday, the East Greenwich School Committee discussed a cleaning assessment of the district’s schools and facilities, which the group said was all the more imperative, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, the committee discussed contracting with the company Core Management Services, who would perform a cleaning and disinfectant assessment for the East Greenwich School Department.
The assessment would include an evaluation of the district’s current cleaning and disinfecting program, its reopening plans and its cleaning program plan for after the students return.
While the committee was hoping to immediately move forward with Core Management’s proposal, town manager Andrew Nota raised questions about whether it qualified as an “emergency purchase.”
Traditionally, when contracting for this type of work, the committee would enter into a competitive bidding process, allowing companies to submit proposals. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, committee members argued that the cleaning assessment was an emergency purchase, which would allow them to sidestep the bidding process and immediately enter into a contract with Core Management.
But Nota, who also serves as the emergency purchasing agent, raised questions about whether the cleaning assessment was actually an emergency.
Committee member Alyson Powell, who also sits on the facilities committee, explained that the district had already been discussing the procurement of a cleaning assessment before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The facilities committee was discussing earlier in the year that the district doesn’t have a set of standards for cleaning and maintenance, a level of cleanliness, of our buildings,” Powell said. “We had discussed and vetted doing a cleaning audit, in order to get a baseline of what kind of personnel and supplies and work schedules we would need to hit specific benchmarks for cleanliness.”
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the facilities committee suggested moving forward with the cleaning assessment this year, giving the district a better idea of the work that would need to be done in order to safely allow students back into school buildings next year.
Powell also said that Core Management was one of three companies in the country that does this type of work, and that it would be a good idea for the committee to move forward as quickly as possible to retain their services. The company is also doing a similar assessment of Brown University, and Powell said the East Greenwich School District could “piggyback” off that work, giving the department a discount for services.
Core Management’s proposal for the assessment totaled $10,000.
And Powell said that committee lawyer Matt Oliverio, superintendent Alexis Meyer and committee chair Carolyn Mark all agreed that now would be a good time to contract with Core Management, and that the work qualified as an emergency purchase.
However, the committee received an email from Nota late Tuesday afternoon, in which he questioned whether the assessment was an emergency.
Oliverio, on the other hand, argued that it did qualify as an emergency purchase.
“What I learned is that Core is one of three companies in the nation that does this type of cleaning audit, to assess facilities, personnel, the level of cleanliness — they do that type of audit,” Oliverio said. “They are doing a similar assessment right now for Brown University, and the hope was to piggyback on the work of Brown University, because it would be much more affordable.”
“We hope to welcome all the students back, come Sept. 1, and one of the issues is we have to have facilities that are sanitized, safe and appropriate for the safety and welfare of our students,” he added.
Though Nota questioned the emergent nature of the work, he did leave the door open for future conversations about directly contracting with Core Management.
“I think this qualifies as an emergency purchase, but you still have to go through the emergency purchasing agent [...] to explain the situation and give him an opportunity to weigh in,” Oliverio said. “He has his reasons why he thinks it may not be an emergency, but he left it open to further discussion.”
Director of facilities Robert Wilmarth also spoke during the meeting, saying that, if the department were to have to go out to bid for the work, it would be too late to provide a cleaning assessment before the beginning of the school year.
“If we’re able to act quickly now, we’ll have a reasonably good chance of having a plan in place for the beginning of summer, and actually be able to implement that plan and share that plan with students, staff and parents, and everybody should be comfortable at that point,” he said.
The committee ultimately decided to approve contracting with Core Management Services on a conditional basis: If Nota eventually agreed that the contract was an emergency purchase, the school department would automatically be contracted with Core Management; however, if Nota does not approve the emergency purchase, the department will immediately go out to bid for the assessment.