Lack of Representation for Custodial Staff

Rachel Park

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Over the past few years, Cupertino High School has notably expanded, with over 2000 students, 22 buildings, 100 classrooms, and 10 bathrooms. Having such an expansive campus, it is close to impossible to not require any maintenance or management. Our school is cleaned and cared for by a custodial staff, and with their consistently increasing responsibilities, the Cupertino High’s custodians deserve more control and authority over how they go about their work; they deserve to have their requests met.
The night-shift custodians take care of maintaining the cleanliness of all the classrooms and buildings of Cupertino High. However, despite the immense scope of our school, there are only five night-shift custodians. Working from 3:00 PM to 11:30 PM, they manage to clean our school every day.
With the recent opening of the new building, the number of facilities that they need to take care of has significantly expanded.
“The workload is increasing more and more. We have had more students, and the school has been growing and growing with all the construction. I mean it is a lot of students. For three years its been growing a lot. Of course, it’s going to be messier [especially the] bathrooms, the quad, and more,” said an anonymous night-time custodian.
He indicated how the opening of the new building and the increase in the number of students has increased the number of tasks they need to do. Another custodian also confirmed that the workload is strenuous.
“There is much more work to do now with the new building. The school keeps on getting bigger and bigger” he said, admitting that their duties have increased significantly with the new building.
“We work from 3:00 to 11:30 PM. We get an hour and a half break for dinner. That is eight hours there,” he explained.
Custodians spend most of their time on their feet, pushing and lifting heavy items. Even with their long working hours, it is hard to take care of their whole school.
Furthermore, the new building has impacted the custodians’ summer tasks. Throughout summer vacation, the custodians do a thorough cleaning of the classrooms: deep cleaning the carpets, vacuuming the floors, wiping the whiteboards, and more. The night-shift custodial staff gets the classrooms ready for the students and the teachers in the summertime. However, due to the recent construction, a considerable amount of area to cover has been added to their workload
“We just do what we can,” the anonymous custodian said. “Sometimes we just don’t get it done; there’s too much work. This school is huge. We cannot finish. We just do what we do, what we can.” Undoubtedly, the amount of work that the custodial staff has to finish is unreasonable.
A reason why the custodial staff has an immense workload is the size of the crew remains the same, while the school steadily grows. Despite the considerable growth of our school, the night-shift custodial staff still only consists of five people. To lighten the amount of work, the custodial staff requested for another custodian.
“We were fighting to have another custodian when we saw that there was more construction, and this building [was going to be] two stories,” he explains, “but they decided not to because they said they don’t have money, so we said okay. We could work a little on the weekends.” The custodian expressed how they would appreciate more staff to lighten their currently heavy responsibilities. He explains that if the school continues to grow, they would have problems managing it.
“We are in big trouble with only five [custodians] if [the school] keeps on growing with the construction.” One custodian explains, “We ask for another guy, but they always tell us next year.” Not being able to receive additional help, the custodians requested the school to “help [them]” by asking the students to “not eat or drink [in classrooms] to help [them] clean a little.”
The school added the challenging management of the new building to the custodians’ duties without much agreement from them.
He said, “No, the school didn’t ask us about the new building. One day they just tell us [to] go clean the new building, and we do. We alternate cleaning the new building to meet the workload.”
One custodian, agreeing with another, said, “Well, that’s right. They told us we have to take care of it, so we do it.”
The custodial staff does not have much say in their work. They had a meeting with the school to talk about the responsibilities of the new building. However, the discussion mainly focused on how the custodians will divide out the work, not on if they are comfortable with also managing the new building with the current staff. As an essential part of our school, they should be represented and have a voice in how they go about doing their work. Without the custodial staff, our school would be dirty and disordered. Custodians do not merely clean the mess that we make every day. They also change light bulbs, keep a lookout for safety hazards, and lock all the buildings. They are the first to arrive in the morning and last to leave at night. With all the work that they do, the district should provide the custodial staff additional assistance.
Despite the arduous work that they do every day, the custodians are always friendly and kind.
“The good thing is that we have you guys. I mean we have good kids,” the custodian concludes. He thanks the students for being polite and organized.
The custodial staff is among the most crucial staff at our school. They are silent guardians who come when everyone has left to clean up our mess and prepare our facilities for the next day.
The night-shift custodial staff deserves to have another custodian. The district should recognize the unreasonable amount of work that the night-shift custodial staff has to do every day and provide them another custodian. Furthermore, for the sake of the school’s cleanliness and a better environment for the students, another custodian should be hired. The current staff is barely able to manage the whole school and is short on time with the large area they need to cover. To keep the school clean and well-maintained, the school should hire another staff-member.