Custodians’ work goes unnoticed

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Karla Lee

During the pandemic, custodians, like Irwin Dillon and Gary Hogan, don’t clean the classrooms unless requested, so they are usually outside, cleaning the grounds and doing their projects. “We’ve been able to do some maintenance and projects that we wouldn’t normally be able to accomplish,” Steunenberg said.

The job of custodians is always behind the scenes: the morning crew is outside during classes, and the insides are cleaned after hours by the night crew. Some students and teachers don’t have the opportunity to notice or to interact with the custodians.  

Usually, the custodians are noticed the most when people see something not clean rather than the normal cleaning that they do, according to Molly McNinch, a teacher at Carlmont.

“Teachers might forget that custodians are cleaning up after them every day. If custodians went away, the first day that teachers are without custodians, everyone’s gonna know,” McNinch said.

According to McNinch, the custodians are some of the most essential workers at Carlmont because, without them, the school wouldn’t meet the sanitized standards, and the facilities would be dirty.

 

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“People have the misconception that the custodians’ job is to pick up [the students’] trash after lunch or break,” Grant Steunenberg, an administrative vice principal, said. “That’s not the job of the custodian. Their job is to…disinfect surfaces, toilets, clean bathrooms…and maintain the facility.”

Despite the trash left behind, Rigoberto Morales, the head custodian of the night crew, appreciated the students, especially those who helped them out after conferences, which was one of the reasons why he enjoyed his job.

 

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Before the pandemic, the work during the night shift wasn’t as busy as the daytime shift, according to Luis Mendoza, a Carlmont custodian. Custodians would start work at 3 p.m. If there was an event, they would start planning and dividing the work. If there wasn’t, each custodian would go to their designated hallways to clean and end at 11 p.m.

“During the daytime, they come in and clock in. Most of the time, it’s just pulling trash cans out of the campus and answering calls. And maybe, they…make a delivery,” Mendoza said. 

As a custodian, there are many struggles when taking out the trash at school, according to Kathryn Nguyen, the co-president of the Green Team at Carlmont. She has experienced some of those struggles during her weekly work of taking out the trash, recycling, and compost and sorting it to help the environment. 

“The bigger bins and the compost…usually had a bunch of bees swarming around the outdoor bins. We saw rats in the trash can before,” Nguyen said. “The outdoor bins don’t have lids and a bunch of rainwater would get into it…There might be a hole at the bottom of the bag, so [the trash would] fall down, and we would be responsible for cleaning up.”

“We feel really good when the students help us…They don’t have to do it, but most of the time [they do],” Morales said.

Even though there were many struggles, Mendoza was very satisfied with his job because it had a good pay, many benefits, such as medical and dental, and gets to be a part of the school community. Morales also loved his job and was very optimistic about it because he wasn’t stressed.

“[At] big companies,…it was really hard. I was under pressure from my other job. You don’t have weekends. You don’t have holidays. I said that I don’t want this for my entire life,” Morales said. 

 

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Even though there were many struggles, Mendoza was very satisfied with his job because it had a good pay, many benefits, such as medical and dental, and gets to be a part of the school community. Morales also loved his job and was very optimistic about it because he wasn’t stressed.

“[At] big companies,…it was really hard. I was under pressure from my other job. You don’t have weekends. You don’t have holidays. I said that I don’t want this for my entire life,” Morales said.

Due to the pandemic, the custodians’ work has changed because they have to follow the new cleaning guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent a virus. They have also been working on new projects.

“[Jerome Harris] shifted [the custodians’] focus on taking care of other jobs, [for example] scraping the gum off the hallway, doing maintenance on the desks…and floors, and putting new ceilings on the gym,” Steunenberg said. 

Many custodians were scared during the pandemic because the positivity rate of covid is high, so there are a lot of risks to take when cleaning at a school.

“In the beginning, it was hard for us…because we don’t want to get infected, but now we learned how to wear masks, gloves, [and] we got better at the disinfecting steps. So we feel more comfortable with it,” Morales said. 

When distance learning started, it has always been very quiet. Because no one came to school anymore besides a few staff members, Morales was sad to not be able to see the students or the teachers. 

Without custodians, the schools wouldn’t function, especially during the pandemic, and students wouldn’t be able to go to school and get their education. 

“If we did not have custodians,…the classrooms might be atrocious,” McNinch said. “Custodians are the people behind the scenes who make everything run. And if they’re not there, nothing gets done well or efficiently. They make the campus and community an effective, clean, and safe place.”