Salute Our Heroes: Rob Seitz created new systems to keep USD 501 schools safe during pandemic

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The person behind the new systems keeping Topeka Public Schools safe during the pandemic is someone you may see around town.

Rob Seitz with Topeka Public Schools implemented new, safety systems for all USD 501 school buildings to combat the pandemic.

”So we had to quickly scramble knowing that we had to plan, how can we get back to school when can we get back to school we had to reconfigure every single classroom,” TPS’ General Director of Central Services/Facilities Planning, Rob Seitz said.

“One thing about being involved in facilities is you need to be able to react on the fly because you don’t ever know what you’re going to be faced with,” Seitz emphasized.

“So obviously none of us could of forecast the pandemic. We had to create basically shields for the office staff to work out of the main office, we had to put desk shields up for all the students to protect them,” Seitz continued to explain the details on what it all entailed.

“We purchased ultraviolet light units that we could go put in every classroom so that we can kill a virus overnight. All the masks and the hand sanitizers and everything like that we’re now very familiar with. It was quite an undertaking and so it really took the entire school district to be able to pull all of that stuff off,” he added.

Seitz says they had to reconstruct each school building differently, while middle and high schoolers followed a hybrid schedule, splitting in-person and remote time.

“In the Elementary schools, we created what we call these micro-classrooms where we could accommodate up to 15 students per classroom. Then we had to reconfigure all the high school classrooms, the middle school’s much larger facilities and so that they could accommodate their hybrid schedule,” he explained.

“We had to take care of all of that all while significantly finding ways that we can do a better job of disinfecting every single space that used for the safety of the students,” Seitz added.

Seitz says providing equipment during the pandemic wasn’t always easy, “the biggest challenge always is when you need to turn things around quickly as the time constraint.”

“So, you have to be willing to work extra hours possibly working weekends and you have to really kind of get the buy-in from your entire staff and say “hey that we need to roll up our sleeves in and work even harder than we already do.”

In all, meeting a challenge is his forte, “I like the challenge of being able to move through an uncertain situation because the certain situations whIle I enjoy that I obviously know what to do because I’ve been doing it for many years but it’s being able to kind of act on your feet and make quick and good decisions that are going to help the welfare of the student population, the staff, the teachers and administrators.”

Seitz says with the new systems in place, students are ready to get back to class.

“From what I’ve heard, they have gotten minimal feedback in terms of, “I’m afraid to send my child back” and so that tells me that we are doing things right in this district and we are doing things that will make all the parents feel comfortable,” Seitz said.

Seitz says all the maintenance and custodian workers are heroes in his book for their continued efforts to keep the schools clean.

All Topeka Public Schools middle and school students will attend in-person classes, five days a week starting April 1st.

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