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School custodians, maintenance workers are the unsung heroes of COVID-19 era.

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 9:23 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Districts are relying on custodians to keep students and staff healthy while school returns during a global pandemic. Custodians are at the school in shifts for a total of 17 hours per day.

Custodial jobs have changed in ways few think about. For example in Derby at Stone Creek Elementary, the school could not use traditional roll-away tables in the lunch room because they do not allow for social distancing. The school is now using folding tables and chairs. Custodians say it takes more time to put away all the tables and chairs so they are able to clean the floor of the lunchroom.

Throughout the day, custodians routinely check for garbage and refill sanitizer available to students and staff. Schools are also generating more trash than before. Cafeterias now use since-use styrofoam trays. Paper towels are used for cleaning and handwashing. Schools install hand sanitizing stations throughout the building. It’s up to the custodians to keep them filled.

The workload in classrooms has doubled. Custodians are cleaning and disinfecting every classroom every day. Before, each classroom was cleaned every other day.

“They genuinely feel that their job is impacting, you know, whether we can keep our school open and how to keep the kids safe, So I think it’s been really exciting for our custodial staff to kind of be in that position for a change,” says Burke Jones, Director of Operations for USD 260.

Over the summer, the maintenance department got new disinfecting supplies that were on the list of approved coronavirus-killing products from the EPA. Burke say custodians trained throughout the summer on the new products.

Among the new products are Clorox 360 Electrostatic Sprayers.

The district purchased one for each building, school buses and the district’s central kitchen. Custodians first clean the surfaces, wiping off dirt and grime. Then they spray rooms with the electrostatic sprayer. It doesn’t just land on the surface. The particles are electrically charged and are attracted to the charged particles in objects, even landing on the bottom of the object.

“If you think about it, when you sit down in a chair you grab the bottom of the chair you grab underneath the table to pull yourself forward. But those are places that normally won’t get wiped down,” Burke says.

The electrostatic sprayer is approved for killing the coronavirus, as well as other common cold and flu viruses. The district says now that it has bought these machines, it will use them beyond the pandemic.

Derby Public Schools says it is looking to hire custodians. You can apply here: Derby Schools Careers

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