With concerns over COVID-19 and a focus on deep cleaning, custodians are under the microscope more now than ever. There is a lot of pressure to clean properly and not make any mistakes. To guarantee that, processes are closely followed.

For example, microfiber wipes or table cleaning pads must be replaced more frequently to eliminate cross-contamination. To keep up the supply and demand, our staff is laundering these products daily.

On Wednesday’s, when students are out, our staff re-cleans surfaces, mops classrooms, disinfects all chairs, spot cleans carpet and really gets caught up on everything. We also have approved overtime for staff to come in on weekends for special cleaning, if needed.

Some teachers and principals can be quick to complain if a classroom or space has been missed or not cleaned to satisfaction. Whether this is fair or unfair, it is a reality. However, I feel that most building staff understand the extra workload placed on our custodial department and know that they are doing the best they can.

Those efforts are extended to above-and-beyond custodial tasks. For example, extra cleaning is required once a space is closed due to a positive COVID-19 case. This requires a full detail clean, disinfection of all surfaces and electrostatic spraying.

School officials also expressed the need for sanitizing playground equipment after each class use. Early on, this was a custodial duty, but it didn’t take long for officials to understand this was unattainable along with maintaining cleanliness of inside surfaces. Instead, we provided pump sprayers to school staff for sanitizing equipment after use.

Meanwhile, our district recently closed school for three consecutive days because of inclement weather — snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures. The custodial staff were asked to take a break from normal cleaning to spend hours outside shoveling, running snow blowers and spreading ice melt.

In this current climate, one of the biggest challenges districts will face when opening back up is keeping custodial staff positive and in good spirits. High expectations and an increased demand on staff will create stress. Some staff can handle it, but others become short tempered and can easily point fingers, blaming others.

There is also still the threat of contracting the virus. We have averaged, at times, six to eight custodial staff out on leave due to close contacts or testing positive for COVID-19 themselves. Custodial staff are frontline workers and they are just as concerned about the virus as anyone else in a school system.

It is important to do whatever you can to provide positive support to your custodial team, thanking them daily for their hard work.

Mike Jones is the director of custodial services at Columbia Public Schools, Columbia, Missouri. He uses his 30 years of experience in operations management to oversee 38 buildings with over 3.4 million square feet. Jones launched a district-wide “Green Initiative” in 2009, and has won two Green Cleaning Awards: 2010 Best New Program and 2011 Grand Award for School Districts. He also serves as a founding member of the Healthy Green Schools and Colleges Steering Committee.

previous page of this article:
Hybrid Learning Enhances School Cleaning