By LEIGH PROM
While Franklin County students and teachers are on summer break, such is not the case for school custodians. Summertime means heavy-duty cleaning and attention to detail that isn’t always possible when school is in session.
The three custodians at Rocky Mount Elementary School have been working all summer — as have all the custodians for Franklin County Public Schools — to prepare for the arrival of staff on Aug. 5 and students on Aug. 12. Rocky Mount Elementary Principal Lisa Newell said the building looked “wonderful” and that the custodians had gotten a lot done while she was on vacation. She added the team works well together.
Barbara Bernard is the school’s head custodian and has been at Rocky Mount Elementary for 27 years.
“I’ve seen a lot [of kids] come and a lot go,” she said adding the staff and kids are the best part of her job. “It’s great seeing the kids come back. It’s like a big old family. I love my job.”
Dakota Cumbie, a FCHS graduate, joined the custodial team three years ago. Cumbie has the distinction of being the national post-graduate champion for the 2016 Skills USA Building Maintenance competition. Skills USA is a national association that serves middle school, high school and college students who are preparing for careers in the trades or skilled service programs.
“I’m so proud of [Cumbie] because he’s a product of Franklin County,” Newell said. She added he is a hard worker and credits Skills USA with helping to hone his skills in building maintenance.
School custodians do much more than sweep, mop, dump trash and clean toilets. They have a detailed manual about the numerous tasks that are to be performed on a daily, weekly, monthly, annually and as required basis.
In addition to checklists for classroom cleaning and care and for restroom cleaning and service, there are checklists for corridors and entrances, stairs and stairwells, lawn, cafeteria, gym (three pages), nurse’s area, glass and windows, water fountains, lights and light fixtures and dusting procedures. There are extensive lists for summer activities as well.
The building and grounds of each school are evaluated in 10 areas twice each year. Any deficiencies noted on a review must be corrected/completed within 30 days unless more than 30 days are needed for completion.
In addition, each custodian is evaluated at least once a year by his/her principal or immediate supervisor.
“Despite all the paperwork and detailed checklists, the thing that impresses me the most is the way they care about their jobs and the students,” Newell said.
She added that with over 500 people in the building each day, there are a lot of details to look out for such as making sure there are always paper towels available.
Part of the summer cleaning involves every desk and chair being taken outside to be pressure washed and specially cleaned to remove gum and other grime.
“They make sure everything looks brand new,” Newell said. “They also check for safety, tightening any bolts, screws, etc. on the furniture.”
In the summertime, the custodians’ jobs are a lot more physical and involve deep cleaning. Bernard said, “A lot of people don’t realize what goes on.”
In the wintertime, when schools are closed due to inclement weather, custodians seldom experience a “snow day” unless the employees are issued Code 0, because there are sidewalks to be cleared and other tasks to be done.
The Rocky Mount custodians have also had the extra challenge of working around three groups that have been using the building this summer for youth programs. Still, they are on schedule to have everything back in place in time for the school year to start.
Bernard said she finds it rewarding “to do something and say, ‘Wow! I did that.’” She said she wants a clean environment for the kids and has the mindset of cleaning as if the kids were her own.
Newell added, “Our custodians do a great job. When they’re cleaning, they’re thinking of the kids.”