As seen in The Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, GA.

There are fewer custodians cleaning Richmond County schools these days, but that doesn't mean things aren't spic-and-span.

Officials say a major addition this school year — the auto scrubber — is keeping school floors nice and shiny.

"This is the first year every school has one," said school system facilities department Director Benton Starks. Last year, only high schools had the devices, which scrub, wash and dry floors in one pass.

There are two types: Walk-behind versions that cost about $7,000, and riding models that are about $12,000, he said.

Starks said what might take two or three workers to clean a school's floor in a day can now be done with just one worker and an auto scrubber. He said that in just one year the devices have paid for themselves in cost savings — in personnel, but also with wax, which isn't needed as much because of more frequent cleanings.

"The more you can keep the dirt out of the floor the longer the wax lasts," he said.

This school year, the custodial department has 26 fewer full-time employees compared with two years ago, a savings of $676,000.

Reductions came mostly through attrition, retirements and resignations.

Officials also were able to open a new Pine Hill Middle this school year without needing new custodians.

The department has a custodial staff of 254.5 full-time employees and is working to have one custodian per 20,000 square feet of school building space.

Starks said microfiber towels and dusters and vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters also are being used to better keep dust down.

Some school board members recently said they're noticing the difference.

"I've seen great improvement in every school I've been to," said board President Marion Barnes at a recent school board meeting.