Lawrence school custodians have enough catch-up work to do every summer.
“Students like to stick gum under the desk and under their chairs,” said Eric Carroll, head custodian at Central Junior High School. “So we get that stuff.”
With the buildings practically empty, it’s about the only time they can get their scraping and other intensive cleaning efforts in before students return in August.
When budget cuts forced the Lawrence district to reduce its custodial staff by 20 percent going into last year, it made the busy summer task of scrubbing down the schools more daunting.
So administrators looked to a concept some other Kansas districts were using known as team cleaning. Custodians from multiple schools work together to clean one school for two to three weeks before moving on to the next one.
“We had to find a way to get these buildings cleaned and maintained with the existing staffing,” said Tom Bracciano, division director of operations and facility planning.
To see how team cleaning worked elsewhere, district administrators even visited Hutchinson schools, where a system has been in place for about four years, Bracciano said.
He said it’s working well so far in Lawrence. Carroll and six other custodians are part of a team that cleaned for three weeks at South Junior High School. Now they are working at Central. When the team is done, they will move on to Lawrence High School. Because Carroll was named head custodian recently he will stay at Central and finish up there.
Another secondary school team of seven custodians is on a circuit to clean Southwest and West junior highs and Free State High School. Three other teams of six custodians are working at five elementary schools each throughout the summer.
In addition to the teams that travel among buildings, a few custodians remain full time in each high school building all summer to prepare for the cleaning team. At least one custodian also remains at each junior high and elementary school.
“The more people you put in, the faster they’re able to get things done, so it just builds on itself with each person,” Bracciano said.
Administrators say crews are able to get plenty of work done in classrooms in a shorter amount of time. It also means less experienced workers can learn from others who’ve been around.
“We get a chance to work with people from other schools. We get to make new acquaintances,” said Carroll, who started with the district in 2008. “And I like the team cleaning because a lot gets done.”