Even after a majority of students left campus last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the custodial department remained at work.A GC custodian’s day starts at 5 a.m., according to Christy Farley, custodial supervisor.
Farley has worked for the custodial department for five years, and was promoted to supervisor two years ago. The custodians clock in at 5 a.m., clean until their break from 9-9:30 a.m., break at 11 a.m. for lunch and then clock out at 1:30 p.m.
The earliest impact on the custodial department took place “when the students were sent home due to COVID-19,” Farley said. “[We started] cleaning dorm rooms very early, earlier than we normally would have for a normal summer deep clean,” she said.
“Even though we deep clean, we had to move quickly in order to have them ready for people who were going to stay on campus,” Farley said. “Since we weren’t pressed for time, we were able to do a thorough, thorough clean.”
With the additional time, Farley said the custodians “went even further,” cleaning the air vents and their screens, and every light cover.
Since students have returned to campus, the custodians’ work schedule has “changed significantly,” Farley said.
“This year we have five more dorm floors open that we’re not used to cleaning every day,” Farley said.
All of the floors of the Miller Residence Hall are open, along with the second floor of Coffman Hall.
“That adds to their normal day,” Farley said. “We’re not used to cleaning dorm rooms during a regular school year.”
The first two floors of Miller are used for student observation for COVID-19.
“So when they move out that’s an added cleaning… when the quarantined students move out,” Farley said.
Another location that custodians have gone to: Kenwood House, currently being used for quarantined students.
“Even though we haven’t had to go there very much, we are not used to going to Kenwood at all during the school year,” Farley said.
Custodians are now responsible to look after the cleaning crates located in the classrooms, which include “filling the bottles, making sure they have enough rags,” Farley said.
Along with filling the cleaning crates, custodians deploy a new tool: the electrostatic sprayers.
The sprayers “hold a solution in a liquid tank,” when it comes out of the sprayer, it adds positive charge to the liquid, Farley explained, “so that when it hits a negative surface, it spreads on its own: it goes up underneath, it goes to places that we probably wouldn’t even spray,” she said.
“They not only help us control COVID-19,” Farley said, “But it also kills the flu and other [illnesses] that we struggle with people catching throughout the year.”
A new concern for the custodial department is staff getting sick. Before COVID-19, custodians may only miss one or two days of work, Farley said. “Now they’re COVID tested and they miss five days,” Farley said, “in addition to being short handed, that puts us even more short when we get sick.”
None of the custodial department has yet to test positive for COVID-19, according to Farley.
The custodians were “very anxious as well, especially when the students started coming back and all the staff,” Farley said. “We had been alone on campus in our own little bubble since March. It was a very challenging time, they are afraid as well of catching COVID-19.”
Despite concerns, Farley is optimistic.
“I honestly was impressed we’ve only had one person isolated in Kenwood,” she said. “I think everyone is trying their best to do what they have to do to help us get to the other side of this pandemic.”
They may go unnoticed on the campus due to their early hours of work, but the custodians at GC are doing more heavy lifting than usual to keep the campus safe this semester.