Custodians: The Unsung Heroes of Yorktown

Eva Smith, Staff Reporter

The custodial staff at our school have always worked hard to make Yorktown a clean and healthy environment for students to learn, and their obligations have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a larger workload and the five snow days our school had at the beginning of the new year, custodians have a lot on their plate. 

Yorktown employs 17 custodians and three maintenance supervisors who help keep the building clean and organized. Custodians do a variety of jobs and are in the building even when students are not. Maintenance supervisor Ebenezer Oware oversees the custodians and their jobs at our school.  

“My main duty is to make sure the building is well-cleaned and safe for students, staff and everybody that walks into the building,” Oware said. 

The Maintenance Supervisor assigns an assortment of tasks to the custodians around the building. Custodians’ jobs can vary depending on what needs to be done, but the principal task this school year is disinfecting. 

“There is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is just using a neutral cleaner, to wipe the desk or whatever surface to make it clean. But this time, you might clean it and still have a virus on it, so after cleaning it, you have to go back and disinfect it. It’s kind of a double job,” Oware said. 

Working to combat COVID-19 takes a significant amount of time for Oware’s staff. Custodians who work the morning shift come into the building at 6:00 a.m. and work until 2:30 p.m.. The afternoon/night shift completes their tasks from 2:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.. The custodial staff cleans bathrooms, classrooms, the cafeteria and stairwells throughout the day. 

While the job requires a lot of time and responsibility, Oware enjoys finishing his tasks and keeping our school clean. 

“At the end of the day, if I walk around and see a lot of things which weren’t done, I feel bad. Because it’s kind of a reflection on what I do…. I become so happy or excited when I walk around, and I see things being done by my staff,” Oware said. 

In January, students and teachers had six days off of school due to snow and cold weather conditions, but custodians continued to do their jobs in the building. They are given unique tasks like clearing snow and ice from outdoor walkways to ensure that our school is safe for when students return.

When students and faculty have a snow day, custodians still come in for their regular hours to clean the building. Oware believes this is an easier task because they are not rushed to finish the cleaning, but two hours delays are another story. 

“Code 2 is school opening two hours [late]. That is the most difficult because you come in, and, between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m., you have to clean the whole building. It’s not just the building; we clean Yorktown Boulevard, we clean 28th St. and other areas,” Oware said. 

Custodians are crucial to the teachers and their classrooms as well. Jonathan Daniel, a math teacher at our school, experiences the work our custodial staff does first hand. 

“Custodians are really essential to keeping not only my classroom clean on a daily basis in terms of the floors and the boards, but also I get here really early in the morning at 6:30 when school opens for teachers, and I see custodians getting restrooms ready. I’ve talked to custodians and they have said that they’re here sometimes late at night [polishing] the floors,” Daniel said. 

He is grateful for the work that custodians here at Yorktown do and tries to make their jobs easier whenever he can. 

“I definitely try to pick up things that are on the floor, and encourage students to take things they have left, and also just erase my boards,” Daniel said. 

Daniel and other teachers also show their appreciation for our custodial staff by pooling money together for them at the end of the school year and for winter holidays. While the custodial staff are in the building for many hours of the day, the ventilation system does not always correspond with the staff’s hours, and Daniel wants to fix this. 

“I’ve heard from custodians that the heating and cooling goes off sometimes while they are still here and it can be really hot [or cold], but they are still here cleaning … I would like to see the heating and cooling coincide with people who are in the building doing work,” Daniel said. 

Without a clean and well-organized school, students would not have as pleasant of a learning experience as they do now, especially during the pandemic. Being able to keep students, staff and faculty safe is an important job, and our custodial staff is at the forefront of that work.