small child walking into a k12 school on first day

People assume schools are empty for the summer, leaving nothing but opportunity for cleaning teams to tackle tough projects. What's it really like?

Ames — All our 86 schools have summer activities taking place. Activities range from Reading Programs, Title 1, Extended School Year to support our SPED students, Summer School sites, Enrichment Programs, Sport Camps and Athletic Programs.

Bartolone — At Marquette, there is summer school and various camps and events that occupy campus for most of the summer.

Fewell — Our campus is never empty.  Not only are there students attending summer classes, but we also have camps on campus for children during the summer months.

Krause — It’s a different kind of busy.  I can’t speak to every school, however, UW Madison Housing has a very large Summer Conference program.  We become a series of hotels – with multiple turnovers – serving around 35,000 guests and campers between May and August.  Our Housekeeping staff can have 3 days to 14 days or more to get an entire building ready for their first group. 
Typically, the only building not used in the summer is the one we are renovating.  We employ additional labor in order to clean and service the buildings.  We have major projects (roofs, windows, flooring, new furniture, etc.) going on daily. 

Martinez — This questions comes up all the time, whenever I tell someone what I do for a living they all ways ask “Do you have summers off like the teachers?” or “Summers must be easy without anyone there to mess it up!” I just laugh and tell them, “Summer is one of our busiest times of year.” We deep clean, shampoo carpets, wax floors and re-finish gyms. I also let them know of all the summer programs that we must deal with, the majority of our schools have summer school until late July. High schools have athletics that use the gyms for practice and basketball camps. We rent the buildings to our community for events. We even rent schools for movie shoots — in fact this summer at East High School they are shooting “High School Musical” the series. We also have teachers moving from school to school or moving from one classroom to another. We have contractors working on HVAC upgrades, installing carpet or remodeling classrooms.

Murphy — Summer cleaning is the most crucial time for custodians because this is when we can actually deep clean everything. When we talk about cleanliness, I believe the majority of people don't understand how important it is to clean. I get asked all the time, "What do you do in the summer?" In my mind I think, what don't we do? Everything needs to be cleaned.

What sort of cleaning prep is required before you can open the doors to students?

Ames — The schools require floor maintenance, such as cleaning, waxing, burnishing, etc. We also pay a lot of attention to disinfecting desks and chairs, and “touch point” areas. Lastly, we replace ceiling tiles and burnt out light bulbs.

Bartolone — There is post-construction cleaning that needs to be completed along with the completion of summer project work.

Fewell — In order to be prepared for the arrival of the students, we must have all our classrooms clean and sanitized, are well as our restrooms, labs and all open areas.

Krause — We focus our attention on cleaning and setup of all resident rooms following summer conferences and before residents arrive. We pay special attention to common spaces, such as bathrooms, halls, stairwells, lounges, kitchens, etc., as well as the exterior of all units – grounds, parking lots and windows. As move-in gets closer, we set up for Check In by posting signage and providing tables, chairs, electrical, tents and carts.

Martinez — Before we open the doors during school our cleaning prep has to be prioritized, top priority is sanitary/disinfecting cleaning: restrooms, touch points (door handles, windows, counter tops, drinking fountains crash bars, etc.), kitchens, cafeterias, locker rooms and trash. Next is vacuuming of all carpet, scrubbing/moping hard surface floors/stairs, entryways, burnishing floors and dusting on a rotating schedule. The reason for prioritizing is if we are short staffed we train our employees to make sure the top priority cleaning gets done nightly no matter what. Second priority can either be gone through quickly, left for the Head Custodian to do in the morning before school or skipped for the night. If we are fully staffed all cleaning should be complete.
Before we can open the doors to students to start the school year our prep should be, deep cleaning of all rooms, offices, restrooms, libraries, locker rooms, gyms, auditoriums, entryways, walls, windows (inside & out) and kitchens. All carpets are shampooed. Scrub/strip and re-coat all waxed floors. Screen and re-coat all hardwood floors. Because of various challenges, we are sometimes unable to complete these tasks so we have to be creative and do some of these projects during the school year. For example, we will wax some floors during winter break or spring break or if we properly maintain the floors throughout the school year, we can skip waxing for a summer our two. If we properly maintain our gym floors we can go two to three years without having to screen and coat — only in middle schools, high schools have to be done every year.

Murphy — Our prep consists of a few things, all classrooms need to be cleaned top to bottom, including all the furniture. Restrooms needs to be thoroughly cleaned preferably foaming the entire restroom down making sure everything is disinfected. Cleaning the lunch tables thoroughly, bottom and tops. Floors needs to be scrubbed and waxed. In very neglected situations, stripping the floor is necessary which is more time consuming.

VanMaldeghem — At the end of each academic year, there is much work that begins to prepare for the start of the next academic session.  For Environmental Building Services, this work encompasses the removal of all trash left behind by the exiting students; refinishing all hard-flooring surfaces; cleaning and extracting carpeting; washing walls, furnishings, lights, vents and other surfaces; and performing deep and thorough cleanings of rest rooms, showers, and athletic areas.
At RIT, Environmental Building Services maintains over 4 million square feet, and that escalates in the summer, since we also perform these tasks in the dorm rooms, as well.


Larry Ames
Director of Custodial Services
Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Christopher Bartolone
Assistant Director for Facilities Services
Marquette University
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Virgie Fewell
Grigg Zone Supervisor of Building Environmental Services and Recycling
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina

Jodi Krause
Assistant Director Housekeeping
Residence Hall Facilities — University Housing
University of Wisconsin — Madison
Madison, Wisconsin

Ricky Martinez
Assistant Custodial Supervisor
Salt Lake City School District
Salt Lake City, Utah

Mycka Murphy
Custodial and IPM Coordinator
Certified Custodial Technician Trainer
Granite School District
West Valley City, Utah

Chuck VanMaldeghem
Building Services Supervisor
Facility Management Services
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, New York

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