St. Cloud State campus

Janitors and custodians across the world are making the most out of a horrible situation by displaying their remarkable work ethic and skill during this COVID-19 pandemic. One place where this is evident is in St. Cloud, Minnesota, reports the St. Cloud Times.

Brian Toutges has been paying attention to detail for a long time. Once the supervisor of the cleaning staff at St. Cloud Hospital, Toutges is now the building services foreman at St. Cloud State University. Using the skills he honed long before at his previous job, Toutges supervises the people responsible for cleaning and disinfecting the entire St. Cloud State campus. That's a big deal because custodial workers are arguably more important to the college campus right now than any professor.

Most all schools, colleges and universities in America are currently prioritizing the health of their students over all else. Because of COVID-19, classes aren't going on in front of the blackboard or in the lecture hall, but over the internet. However, at some universities like St. Cloud State, staff and students who live on campus are still using the facilities. And that means custodial staff must work tirelessly to not only keep campus clean for the few that are present now, but also for the many others that will eventually return.

St. Cloud State isn't alone. St. Cloud School District has been closed for weeks. In that time, its custodial staff have conducted a deep clean to kill whatever might have been left behind. Custodial staff are also scrambling to identify products that don't work well against COVID-19 and replace them with the disinfectants that do.

Some of St. Cloud's schools still prepare meals for students in need because it's sadly their only source for proper nutrition. Some of the school's are being used as temporary daycare operations for the families of first responders. In either case, these facilities must be clean and safe and it's the custodian that ensures this.

In his 30 years of work in the industry, Phil Messier has gotten used to seeing janitors forgotten. That isn't the case now, says Messier, who serves as St. Cloud State's assistant vice president of Facilities Management.

"Folks gain a new appreciation for the work and dedication of these frontline employees," Moessner tells the St. Cloud Times. "You took it for granted before. Now you start to realize that that crew is providing a critical component to how the university runs and the success of the university."

For more on what janitors in St. Cloud are going through right now, read the Times' entire story here.