Cambridge school custodian Keaton Anderson said it’s his job, in a pandemic, to keep people healthy.
“If someone got sick, I would feel just so bad,” said Anderson, who has worked as a custodian in Cambridge High School for three years.
Cambridge custodians have had a unique challenge this fall — keeping three school buildings clean as teachers and students continue to use the spaces.
“You have to be flexible,” said Randy Staubli, Cambridge’s director of buildings and grounds. “Whatever it takes, we’ll do.”
“My days have changed a lot, obviously, since all this Covid stuff has been going on,” Anderson said.
Cambridge has had over 300 elementary school students learning in-person over the last month. The school year started with grades 4K-2 in person, and grades 3-5 returned Sept. 28.
The school district this weekend announced the elementary school was transitioning back to virtual learning for a few weeks, due to staffing shortages. But until Oct. 18, custodians were tasked with cleaning a school full of students.
Students have also been returning, in small numbers to Nikolay Middle School and Cambridge High School. And teachers are still teaching from their classrooms.
Cambridge has nine custodians, Staubli said, that in their cleaning are prioritizing high-touch areas. They’re sanitizing desks, teachers desks, door knobs, light switches and “anything that’s touchable,” sometimes multiple times a day, Straubli said.
“Pretty much anything I think they touch, I’ll wipe down,” Anderson said.
“You wouldn’t normally wipe door handles four times a day,” Staubli said.
But, Anderson said, “you can never be too safe.”
Prior to the elementary school shutdown, Staubli said as a grade level headed to the cafeteria for lunch, two custodians “attacked” their classroom, sanitizing surfaces while students ate.
“You would just follow right behind them as the room opened up,” Staubli said.
A third custodian would be in the cafeteria, sanitizing after every grade level finished lunch.
And at the high school, custodians are tackling offices, bathrooms, common areas and classrooms after teachers leave.
“Teachers will stop me and say ‘thank you for wiping everything down,’” Anderson said. “That means a lot. It makes me feel good, cleaning everything off to make sure everything is safe.”
Staubli said Cambridge is also upgrading its HVAC systems, and ordering protective equipment.
“We’ve got so much hand sanitizer,” Staubli said.
Staubli said the district has two electrostatic sprayers at each building that crews use for disinfecting, which speeds up the process. Those, he said, are “changing how buildings are getting cleaned,” Staubli said.
Staubli added that he thinks the habits custodians are building during the Covid-19 pandemic around cleaning and sanitizing, will be continued after the virus curbs.
Staubli said he’s proud of his staff, saying they’re focused, moving quickly through large buildings and committed to safety.
“There have been a lot of people that have extended themselves for this community, (but) it’s not like we’re looking for a pat on the back,” Stwaubli said. “You do this for the community.”