Operation sanitization

Custodians’ responsibilities double with pandemic 

Custodian+David+Ames+fogs+a+room+that+a+symptomatic+student+has+previously+been+in.+When+someone+tests+positive+for+COVID-19+or+leaves+campus+due+to+an+unidentified+illness%2C+the+rooms+that+student+attended+are+sanitized+with+disinfect.+

Photo by Peyton Sims

Custodian David Ames fogs a room that a symptomatic student has previously been in. When someone tests positive for COVID-19 or leaves campus due to an unidentified illness, the rooms that student attended are sanitized with disinfect.

Story by Peyton Sims, editor in chief

No one’s routine is the same amidst this chaos. When the last bell rings, students storm off campus. However, there are people staying behind so students can safely return the following day. In order to follow mandatory health precautions, custodians are remaining on campus after hours to maintain a safe environment. 

“We’ve been using a lot more disinfectants, gloves and masks,” custodian David Ames said. “It’s been a challenge. I’m having to stay overtime some days, but it hasn’t been anything too late, no more than an hour.”

After eating in the cafeteria on any given day, trays line the tables for the custodial staff to gather up. In addition to the daily tray pick up, sanitation is being heavily enforced. 

“There’s been a lot more tables to clean because we’re trying to keep everyone within a six foot distance. It’s a little challenging, but it’s working out,” custodian Shawn Walker said. “We have more people keeping tables wiped down and we’re keeping everything picked up for the next lunches. We clean the tables over four or five times a day. If I had to estimate, we likely clean over one hundred tables per day.”

From one spray of disinfectant to the next, the custodial staff has positive intentions for all of the students. 

“We have to clean everything that’s touched, like door knobs and the desks. We’re always wearing masks and gloves and washing our hands,” custodian Anthony Frazier said. “During the summer, we were having to work additional hours, but now during school, everything’s more in place. What we do is all about safety; we don’t want to see anyone get sick.”

It’s likely that an on-campus student has witnessed the fogging of a classroom. When the school is alerted of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, each classroom the student attended prior to their test is sprayed with disinfectant.

“We have several foggers that we use around campus,” Ames said. “We have one with a little green handle and another that’s like a modified leaf blower that has a water tank that will spray the mist further. We’ve been using a chemical called Re-Juv-Nal that we’ve used in the past. We brought it back to help fight the pandemic.”

With a pandemic comes the expected influx of needed cleaning equipment across the TISD campuses. Currently, Texas High has at least six months of supplies stored up in advance. 

“Mr. Bailey, who’s our Chief Operating Officer, takes care of all [the equipment]. He calls weekly to make sure each school has all of the necessary needs,” Associate Principal for Student Management Richard Stahl said.

We try to forecast and plan for the future on what we’re going to need next. I’ve been in education for 18 years. Safety is always number one. You can’t learn if you’re not safe. You can’t be happy if you’re not safe.”

— Richard Stahl

Considering there are 14 custodial staff members on campus, communication is vital between them and the administrators when it comes down to disinfecting a room in a timely manner. 

“Mr. Stahl gives me a call when a room [needs to be fogged], and I’ll go to his office. Then he’ll tell me what room number to go to,” Ames said. “We fog rooms fairly often. At nighttime, after [school is] done, custodians will go back through and [fog] all of the rooms again as they make their way out of the buildings.”

Since custodians are responsible for disinfecting the campus, they’re more likely to be exposed to the virus. After their work day is over, they have the potential to spread the virus to anyone within their household.

“I have at-risk family members I have to be careful bringing the virus back home to,” Ames said. “My father’s [not in the best health], but I do wear my mask when I’m around him at home.”

TISD continues to work to keep a safe environment for every student and staff member. 

“I think Texas High in general is doing a great job [fighting through] this pandemic. It’s not just the custodians, but it’s also the kids and the rest of the staff,” Ames said. “Everybody is doing their part by wearing their mask, every teacher has a spray bottle of Re-Juv-Nal and they all have plenty of hand sanitizer.”

The end of the first six weeks brought an immense amount of new on-campus students. While previously remote students begin to pack their backpacks for the first time in months, student’s safety is a beckoning question that lingers in the back of many peoples’ minds.

“I think people have different opinions about what we do and what our job is,” Walker said. “I know that the pandemic will end up getting better for the children. We want to make sure that students have a safe environment and that they’re treated with respect. We want them to feel safe when they come to get their education on campus. ”