School custodians play an essential role in ensuring schools can safely reopen


SHARON SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Preparing for this unprecedented school year took months of planning. We often hear about how teachers and administrators have been hard at work, but so have our school custodians. In fact, they’re an essential part of ensuring that schools can safely reopen.

Thursday marked the first day of school for students at Sharon Springs Central School District. Before most students even opened their eyes Thursday morning, Glen Osterberg was at the school preparing for a safe return. He’s been working for the district for more than 20 years, and currently serves as the Supervising Custodian.

When everyone else was sent home during the coronavirus pandemic, he and his four other custodians were still at the school every day risking their own safety to protect others.

“Friday the 13th we got the word that we were closing down, and we were supposed to start sanitizing and cleaning everything,” said Osterberg. 

They’ve been in the school all summer long, too.

“We’ve cleaned this building from top to bottom multiple times,” said Osterberg.

On top of cleaning, they’ve been packing away excess furniture in storage pods to clear space for safe instruction.

“The biggest thing is the six-foot bubbles and trying to get as many desks in a classroom as possible,” said Osterberg.

His custodial team has also been bracing themselves knowing that as students fill hallways and classrooms, they’ll be busier than ever before making sure that all the major touch surfaces are clean.

“Railings, door knobs, you don’t think about it, but the telephones, the intercom systems, hallways. Kids are notorious for walking down the hall and dragging their hands down the halls. So we’re constantly going through and wiping down the walls in the halls,” said Osterberg.

He told NEWS10 ABC the district does not currently have the backpack electrostatic sanitizers because a lot of that sophisticated equipment is on back order due to supply and demand.

“Once we get the backpack cleaners, it will be easier, but for now, we have to do it the old fashioned way,” said Osterberg. “We’re going to make sure the building is clean no matter what, even if it takes us triple the amount of time.”

He said the administration has also provided them with student schedules so that they know when a classroom will be empty so that they can run in and clean it before students return.

“The big thing is the dwell time for the chemicals to do what they’re supposed to do, which is kill viruses and germs. So we have to plan accordingly for that,” said Osterberg.

He said, while there were some nerves regarding the risk of exposure, he said now more than ever, there’s a great sense of pride that comes with the work they’re tasked with.

“We’re just here to do our job and help everybody else out. Everybody was a little hesitant, and we still are, but we know we have a job to do. We’re working the overtime, spending 12 hours a day here making sure everything is clean just so that we can provide a safe learning environment for the kids because we know the kids want to be in school,” said Osterberg.

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