In the ongoing battle against COVID-19, the janitorial staff is the frontline defense for Granite Bay High School.
As students and faculty transition into the new frontier of hybrid learning, safety is at the top of a long list of concerns.
The CDC’s guidelines say that the COVID-19 virus will die on a surface within hours to days, but in a classroom setting, there is little room for error.
Harvard Medical School also claimed that on stainless steel, which is the material classroom door handles are made of, the COVID-19 virus can survive for two to three days without disinfection.
Luckily for the students and faculty at GBHS, the school is taking the necessary precautions to keep the student body safe.
Hybrid learning will be made up of a small percent of the usual attendees with social distancing and masks.
Furthermore, the GBHS janitorial staff is on high alert during this time.
Mike Whiting, the head custodian at GBHS, has been working for 21 years from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. every school year until the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March.
For Whiting and his staff, the stakes have never been higher as the school prepares to accept the incoming wave of students.
“We need to wipe down and clean more often so the students don’t get sick,” Whiting said.
During hybrid learning, the janitorial staff will be doing an A/B rotation on full cleaning and have surface areas they do each day.
“Hybrid learning changed our daily working schedules, so we did increase the number of precautions, so we can stay safe while disinfecting and cleaning properly for a safer environment from COVID-19,” said Pardeep Kumar, a janitor at GBHS. “Our first priority is now disinfecting and clean.”
Each Wednesday, while all students will be signing into Zoom, the custodians will be coming in to do extra cleaning to prepare for the next round of students.
During this time they will implement “flex cleaning,” which allows for more direct surface cleaning in classrooms.
Even with the six custodians, many families don’t feel safe returning to school. According to a survey sent out by the Roseville Joint Union High School District, only 30 percent of students are planning to attend hybrid learning.
“There are never any guarantees in the times we are living in, but we are following CDPH guidelines in our reopening plan,” said Gregory Sloan, an assistant principal at GBHS. “We’ve been working on plans throughout the summer and continuously updating leading up to going hybrid in just over a week.”
The stakes have never been higher for the janitorial staff as the entire operation rests precariously on their shoulders.
“We do feel the pressure on our job because the COVID-19 pandemic has made us more responsible for the health and well-being of our students and staff members,” Kumar said.
Backed by a great staff, GBHS tiptoes into an unprecedented time. The janitorial staff will continue to work tirelessly to protect the students and faculty after everyone else has gone home.
“I am happy to work here. I am happy [doing] what I’m doing,” GBHS janitor Regimio Hernandez said. “Whatever I do, I do it with all my heart. I have passion for my work.”
The janitorial staff is one of the mysterious forces at play keeping GBHS beautiful and safe. It isn’t glorious or flattering, but in these times they are an essential part of the GBHS ecosystem.
“My life has been defined by struggle,” Kumar said. “In India, succeeding in school was competitive and difficult, but I like working here. The kids are nice and cooperative.”
Hybrid learning is a delicate balance between the desire to return and the apparent risk of meeting in person, and the janitorial staff and the GBHS staff at large are adding stability to this fragile situation.
“We want to keep our staff and students safe. This means we all need to follow the rules we’ve set forth,” Sloan said. “Looking forward to a time when everyone can come every day and experience the Granite Bay experience.”
This story was originally published on GraniteBayToday.org on October 20, 2020.