Custodians busier as they ensure COVID-19 cleaning protocols

Emmalie Herd, Guest Reporter

The whirring of drills and a car engine starting were the dominant sounds of the custodial office located in a desolate part of the school. In the background, the sound of electronic voices streaming in through the walkie-talkies and the clicking of wrenches hitting metal filled the air. The car parked in the center of the large garage rumbled quietly before pulling out onto the driveway.

According to head custodian Laura Olsen, a teacher at Bellevue West hit a curb earlier that morning. When she got to the school she discovered that her tire had been pierced and lost all pressure. The custodians fixed her tire for her.

“This doesn’t usually happen,” Olsen said. “You never know what’s gonna happen around here.”

Every custodian focused on their designated tasks. Some cleaned the tables in the cafeteria and some fixed sinks in the school restrooms. There was even laundry to be done. The washing machines swooshed and swirled as their contents tumbled around the large metal basin. 

Because of COVID-19, the custodians have been busier. The custodians only have a 5 minute interval between lunch passings to disinfect each of the areas where students eat. Whereas in other years they would go around and only clean up messes that were made.

Olsen said that a lot more tasks have been put on the night shift. With the new safety precautions that have been put in place because of  COVID-19 the night shift’s workload has doubled.

“They don’t give us any extra hours,” night shift leader Nelly Carlson said. “They give us the same hours to do all the work plus the disinfecting. We cannot cut corners because we still have to make sure everything is clean.”

Each night, after the students have left, night shift custodians come in and disinfect the school. Each desk and table is thoroughly wiped down and the entire room is then coated in a mist-like fog. This ensures that each surface is being cleaned without having to wipe down every individual item in the classroom.

Night shift custodians are only given eight hours to clean, disinfect and clean-up after any activities.

“We are trying to do so much and we get a little more stressed and have to work a little faster and try to still get everything done,” Olsen said.

Head custodian Laura Olsen explains how the fogger machine is used to disinfect classrooms.

The students at Bellevue West may not realize exactly how much the custodians do for the school. Many have probably seen them wiping down tables or vacuuming after school, but this barely scratches the surface of what they do.

The custodians take care of everything from electrical and plumbing to air conditioning to welding wobbly tables.

“We don’t like when people call us janitors,” Olsen said. “When I think of a custodian you’re a caregiver. Like a custodial parent, we are the custodians of the building. We take care of the building, and we take care of the contents of the building: the kids and the teachers and the staff.”

COVID-19 has added more to the workload of the custodians, but they are using it to their advantage. They are working together to create an even safer environment for the students and staff. While the custodians may work at different times in the day, they still help each other out by completing tasks that may have traditionally been done by the other staff.

“With everybody pitching in, I think having teamwork is really a good thing,” Carlson said. “That helps and makes everybody’s job easier when we work as a team.”