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A day in the life of the custodians

“I hate when people spit, that’s gross,” said Custodian Jana Russell. “But I try not to let the little things bother me.”

This was the beginning of a 24 hour observation of the custodial staff.

7:30 a.m. – The Adventure Begins

BHS is known for being a tidy and well-organized school. Clean bathrooms, spotless floors, and organized classrooms make our school a warm and inviting place. Exactly how much work it takes to keep the school in perfect condition can sometimes be overlooked. The custodial staff, comprised of many characters and personalities, takes pride in what they do and work very hard to keep the school looking its best at all times.

The shadowing began with Jana sporting her “Jana-tor” nametag and walking with a syrup covered lunch tray. Jana had much to say, including what she does daily, “I wipe down the tables after breakfast, clean the locker bays, and wash the windows in the front of the school,” she said.

Jana is always smiling, and is friendly with her fellow BHS staff members. Like most custodians we talked to, she has a pet peeve when it comes to cleaning.

9:30 a.m. – Tractors and Trailers

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Dave working on the school’s tractor

Under a gloomy gray sky we trudged through the mud over to the bus garage. There we waited for Grounds Custodian

Dave Poirier to begin his daily routine. When we initially thought of “a day in the life of the custodial staff,” we thought we would just observe–we had no idea what was in store for us. From changing tractor wheels to learning about the giant lawn mower, we learned that custodial work is more than vacuuming classrooms and picking up hardened wads of gum.

Dave has been working at BHS for 34 years, and is retiring this June. “I’m ready to move on, but I love my job,” Dave said. “I’m going to miss the machines.”

Dave is responsible for maintaining the school grounds. One of his biggest responsibilities is mowing the fields. For this, he has a giant tractor and a massive lawn-mowing trailer that is towed behind it. Dave’s love for his machines was apparent from the way he talked about the cleaning and maintenance of the hydraulic system of his lawn-mowing trailer.

10:33 a.m. – Lunch Time

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Custodians at lunch

The next four hours were devoted to cleaning up spills and making sure the cafeteria remained in one piece. After all the students had left, Custodians Bryce Rodewald and Diane Yonak put all the tables and chairs away and then Zambonied the cafeteria floor and outside the PAC.

2:30 p.m.— Classroom Cleaning

As school ended for the students, work was just beginning for the custodians of the 2nd shift. What we thought would be observations turned into a hands on experience. Working alongside Sharon MyersBrian WarzethaPat PawelkRollie Dehmer, and Lloyd Lenart, the three of us were put to work. Emptying and changing garbage liners, vacuuming classrooms, drawing maps of classrooms, and putting away lunchroom tables were just a few activities we were able to help with. Everyday the custodial staff vacuums every carpeted area and makes sure each room is in great shape for the next day. It can take up to eight hours, but the custodians enjoy a clean and polished school. By cleaning alongside them, we realized just how much work they do.

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Resource area after school

Our ways to help out the custodians:
Stack your chairs at the end of the day. It saves them so much time while vacuuming.
Put recyclables into the recycle bin. They are there for a reason.
Gum belongs in the garbage. It does not belong under the tables and chairs or on the staircases.
If you see a big scrap of paper on the floor, pick it up and throw it out. Those can’t be sucked into the vacuum.

4:30 – Break Time

The custodial staff stops for a break a few hours after their shifts began, where we got to learn more about them.

Rollie was previously the school’s A/V assistant, but moved to custodial work four years ago when budget cuts eliminated his job. His pet peeve is cleaning gum. From his experience, Rollie says the senior hallway has less gum messes than other halls, which is the hallway we saw him spend most of his time cleaning.

Sharon has been at BHS for nine years and is known for her big personality and friendly demeanor. Brian previously worked in printing for 30 years, but moved to custodial work when the job left.

Lloyd had a similar experience to Brian. “I worked repairing electronics for many years, but when electronics got cheaper, it wasn’t worth the money to repair devices anymore. There are still some repair jobs in southwestern Minnesota, but my family lives here, I can’t move now; I’ll be able to retire soon.”

4:45 – Back to work

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A custodial closet

Up until 10:00, with another break and a half hour for dinner, the custodial staff returns to finish cleaning the “pods” (resource areas and classrooms).

10:00 p.m. – Third Shift

An hour before the second shift ends, the two night custodians, Nicole Jude and Kent Melenich, arrive well-rested and ready to work. They are in charge of sweeping all the floors and cleaning out the locker rooms, respectively. While the night shift seemed difficult to us, Nicole and Kent both enjoy it because they have young children. “I get to come home after work, wake up my kids, sleep while they’re at school, and I’m up to help them with homework by the time they get home,” Kent said.

In the midst of shift changes, the custodial staff told us what they thought not many people knew about BHS.

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“BHS has a ghost who messes with the lights and lives in the basement,” Kent said. “There’s also a lot of really big maintenance rooms around the school and the PAC has a trapdoor in the ceiling.”

To keep themselves awake through the night, Jude plays music through the PA. The station of choice for the night was Cities ‘97.

“Well we both don’t like country, so we don’t play that,” said Nicole. “But we don’t really even realize what’s playing, it’s kind of just background.”

While Nicole and Kent were working, we decided to explore the school and see all the work the custodial staff had done during the day.

Our wacky adventure included:
Cap’n Crunch
Secret Maps
Rooftops
Tractors
Men overboard
Ghosts
Card Games
Tile Counting
Tennis balls
Pillows and couches

7:00 a.m. – Wrapping Up and Looking Ahead

Our journey came to an end the next morning and with school almost out, the custodians are gearing up for a productive summer. “We do a full deep clean of the entire school. We scrub and wax all the floors, clean all the ceiling fixtures, basically empty all the rooms and scrub them down,” Lloyd said, adding that many students don’t know that the custodians work full time over the summer.

Through all of our experiences, we saw just how hard working and dedicated the custodial staff is. Each worker was very friendly and fun to get to know; they welcomed us with open arms into their daily routines, making it a pleasure to work alongside them. The work that they do isn’t easy, and should always be treated with respect. The custodial staff is truly a vital part of BHS, and the work that they do will always be appreciated. Please take the time to thank members of the custodial staff when you have a chance–they truly deserve it.

Tyler Maxson

I'm a 2013 Senior at Buffalo High School. Next year I'm going to college.

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One Comment

  1. Love seeing the intrecate workings of such a large school. The custodians are a valuable asset and to see the time and effort they put into their job is really cool. Love the parent who works nights to be home when their kids get home from school and to spend the evening with them Fun read!

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