Work at Northville public schools doesn't stop during summer vacation. The custodial and maintenance staffs continue their duties keeping each school building in top shape for the return of students come fall. Halls, classrooms, windows, gymnasiums, bathrooms, and ceilings get full attention during the 12-week summer recess.

Kevin Cavanaugh, custodial coordinator for the district the past nine years, explained that a fairly new approach to their summer work is helping save the school district money. “It's called team cleaning. We bring most of the custodial staff to a building for one to two weeks during the summer to completely clean the building top to bottom. Once it is finished, we move on to the next school building,” he said.

Northville started this a few years back, and this is the second time they've done an entire summer using this approach. Schools on this year's team-cleaning schedule include: Silver Springs, Winchester, Ridgewood, Moraine, and Amerman elementary. Also, Meads Mill middle school has been added to the list.

On-going summer programs prevent team cleaning at Hillside, Thornton Creek, Cooke, Old Village (connected to the Administration office) and Northville High school. Their regular custodial staffs throughout the summer will maintain those facilities.

“The motivation for team cleaning was to see if we could cut down on expenses and energy costs during the summer,” Cavanaugh said. “Energy costs at the other schools on our list are minimized as they wait to be cleaned.”

He calculated a savings of nearly $17,000 from a six-week period last summer in energy costs alone. Cavanaugh expects the savings to be higher this year, and said that team cleaning will be the standard practice going forward.

The custodians go through each facility performing a variety of duties: Cleaning classrooms, washrooms, light lenses, changing lights, replacing ceiling tiles, washing walls, dusting and cleaning furniture, and a host of other tasks. Additionally throughout the summer they scrub floors, carpets and gymnasiums.

“We buy our products from a professional cleaning company, going green as we can. Floor stripper is one product that needs to relatively strong to remove several coats of wax. But so far we haven't found one that has been a green product,” Cavanaugh said.

One more way the custodial department is saving the district money is by working four 10-hour days, from 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

One very specific thing Cavanaugh says he proud of is how much square footage the staff of 54 custodians clean each year. “We have in excess of one million square feet that we clean each year. Since 1999, we've added over 200,000 square feet of structure to our district without increasing staff,” he said.

Unfortunately, due to the very recent cost reductions the school board approved, the custodial department will be affected.

“Our annual substitute budget was cut from $150,000 down to $50,000. That will make next year more challenging,” Cavanaugh said. “We pretty much need to have subs on hand to cover sick days, injuries, vacations, etc. So we won't be able to hang on to as many substitutes as we have this year.”

Cavanaugh said the custodial staff is also responsible for the immediate perimeter for lawn mowing and snow plowing and the Maintenance Department takes over from there. “I think our buildings speak for themselves, a credit to the guys actually doing the work. It's oftentimes a thankless job.”

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