When the five elementary schools in the North Bellmore School District open up each morning, it’s because of the dedication of the approximately 40 members of the Facilities Department. Oct. 2 is National Custodian Day and the district’s staff of cleaners, custodians and maintainers deserve recognition for their splendid upkeep of the buildings and grounds.
Much of their work takes place in plain sight, while a lot is done behind the scenes. Daytime cleaners and custodians handle a wide variety of tasks from cleaning up the cafeteria after lunch to setting up furniture in classrooms, offices and common spaces. They also handle minor building repairs.
To keep schools clean, safe and running smoothly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the district hired additional cleaners who work daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Their job is to disinfect all high-touch surfaces in the schools such as door handles, handrails, light switches and water bottle-filling stations. They also clean classrooms while students are out to lunch and recess. Facilities Director Richard Russo said the cleaners have set routes and when they reach the end, they go back and start over.
Nighttime custodians do thorough cleanings of the buildings and also disinfect the classrooms using electrostatic sprayers.
The district’s staff of maintainers are responsible for upkeep of the grounds, which totals about 61 acres. They also are also tasked with building repairs and upgrades. The staff of maintainers includes skilled carpenters, electricians and plumbers, who can do small and mid-sized jobs such as repairs and upgrades to the HVAC system and the installation of window air conditioning units. This summer, they built two small offices in the Martin Avenue Elementary School library. Last year, they upgraded outside lighting around the schools.
Having this work done in-house not only saves money, but it also allows the district to complete the work on its own time frame.
“We have intentionally hired into specific areas of expertise, allowing us to perform work with our district personnel, rather than having to contract out jobs,” Superintendent Marie Testa said.
Custodians handle painting projects throughout the schools. They typically paint the hallways every summer, and classrooms are done on a rotating basis. This past summer, they painted every classroom on the second floor of Saw Mill Road Elementary School.
Mr. Russo said the demands on the buildings and grounds staff have only increased during the pandemic because of the stringent cleaning requirements. Expectations often change at the last minute based on updated guidance from state and local health agencies. North Bellmore’s buildings and grounds staff has handled it all with grace.
“They have gone to great lengths and always with a positive attitude,” he said, “knowing they are doing this for the children and the staff. They constantly go above and beyond, and are great at adapting and accommodating all of the requests that come at us.”
“Our custodians, cleaners and maintainers take great pride in ensuring that our buildings and grounds are crown jewels in the community,” Mrs. Testa added. “Their contributions to the district are immeasurable.”