Custodial changes brought by COVID-19

Because of the health risks brought on by the pandemic, the custodians have had to apply new protocols to their cleaning routine. The effort has resulted in an environment where students can come in regularly for school.


**Extra maintenance…** *Collecting trash, custodian Dennis Gibson goes from room to room throughout the school to clean them after students leave the building. The custodial staff have had to adapt to many changes to their cleaning protocols because of the pandemic.* *Arrowhead Photo by Ben Shadle*

With a tighter cleaning protocol, the high school’s custodial staff have placed significant emphasis on keeping the school clean this past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The custodians have had to adapt to many new regulations and mandates issued by the state government. Initially, it proved to be a challenge adjusting to all the changes being made.
Over time, it has become more standard.
“As time went on, especially now, it’s kind of leveled out to where we are used to what we are supposed to be doing,” facility manager Tom Coughlin said.
Along with adjusting to the new regulations, new cleaning protocols have been put into place. A greater emphasis has been placed on “high touch areas,” Coughlin said. Such places include railings, locker rooms and bathrooms as they are the primary hot spots.
Custodians have adapted to using new cleaning chemicals and tools like the Bioblast spray, which Couglin said can disinfect a room in less than a minute.
The need for constant access to hand sanitizer has also increased and custodians are making sure to stay on top of it.
“Sanitation is the name of the game right now,” custodian Barry Devine said.
Making sure there is enough sanitizer being ordered and that there is enough for the entire school to be used has also been a priority.
For the custodians, the job has proven to be more time consuming than it has previously. Extra time is being taken to keep things up to snuff with “a little more effort taken to keep things up to par,” Devine said.
Custodians who used to only clean at night now are coming in to clean during the day, adding an extra level of responsibility.
“It’s put a lot more time onto their schedules. There’s more detailed cleaning being done than we would typically do on a daily basis,” Coughlin said.
Even with the potential health concerns that COVID-19 has brought, the custodial staff are able to feel comfortable working and not feel immediately worried about catching the virus.
“If anything, they are probably safer now because we’re wearing masks every day,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin said that in previous years the school has been clean, but this year, the school is cleaner and more sanitized than ever before. A main concern is just making sure the school is clean enough so that the virus can’t spread effectively.
Custodian Dennis Gibson said that it’s a matter of making sure to not touch a surface before spraying it by accident and touching your face, for example.
Many of the new practices the custodial staff have adopted will most likely stay in place even after the pandemic.
According to Coughlin, the extra sanitation and higher emphasis on high touch areas is good for the school.
The effort put in from the custodial staff has helped not only the high school, but the entire district to be able to have the students come in-person five days a week.
“Custodians are a part of the solution of making things comfortable for everybody. Without the custodians, who knows?” Devine said.
According to Coughlin, many of the custodians throughout the district are happy to see the buildings full again. During a time where many schools are struggling to start in-person learning, the custodial staff at Souderton have managed to make it safe for the students to both learn and participate in extracurricular activities.
“We’re here to keep everything clean and if it wasn’t for [students] then we wouldn’t have a job, either. So I’m thankful for that,” Gibson said.