COUNCIL BLUFFS — St. Albert Catholic Schools welcomed its youngest students back from break this week with a lesson on the importance of hand-washing to reduce the spread of germs.

The lesson came during an assembly for students in pre-K through third grade sponsored by Omaha Compound, which distributes hand sanitizer and other cleaning products.

School officials wanted to help students “get a jump on” the flu, said Jake Driver, facilities director at St. Albert. Teaching them healthy habits will continue to benefit them in the future, and holding an assembly on the subject on students’ first day back after winter break should help them remember, he said.

Speaker Carl Klein and his furry sidekick, a 6-foot-tall dog named Biscuit, reminded students to wash their hands after using the restroom, to wash or sanitize their hands before eating, and to cover their mouths with their elbows when coughing or sneezing .

People should wash their hands for 20 seconds, which is about how long it takes to sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Happy Birthday,” Klein said. It happened to be Biscuit’s birthday, so students sang “Happy Birthday” to him while he demonstrated washing his hands throughout the song.

Germs tend to accumulate on several surfaces in a restroom, including door handles, light switches, toilet seats and faucet handles, Klein said. He suggested that, if there are paper towels for people to dry their hands with, students use the same paper towel they dry their hands with to turn the water off and open the door to leave.

As children left the gym where the assembly was held, they used hand sanitizer from a dispenser with Biscuit’s face on it.

As of the week ending on Dec. 28, 2019, influenza was widespread across Nebraska and Iowa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

School officials are installing hand sanitizer dispensers inside each entrance, in restrooms and in the cafeteria, among other spots, Driver said. Meanwhile, he and his crew are trying to keep the school as clean as possible.

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