By Nessy Sobey and Sadie Withers
Leo Falter was hired as Head Custodian at Jamesville-DeWitt High School in November 2020. He previously worked at other schools in the district for thirteen years, including Jamesville Elementary School.
Returning to school this year, Falter felt overburdened. “The first week is always very difficult, it’s a lot of running around, constant moving. The way I can describe this year in just the three first weeks is overwhelming,” said Falter.
For Falter, it has been hard settling into a schedule and adjusting to student’s and staff’s return to school buildings. Everyday, more little things pop-up that need to be taken care of right away. “Hopefully, there will be a set routine in a couple of weeks,” said Falter.
They have also been short staffed due to retirement of custodial members and COVID protocols. With everyone back to five days a week, the amount of work that Falter has to get done has been piling up.
As Head Custodian, Falter’s job is different from other custodians. He does more management while the rest of the staff does more janitorial duties. Falter frequently converses with the administrators of J-DHS to learn what needs to be done. He then distributes the work between the crew. “I would never ask my guys to do something that I wouldn’t do,” said Falter.
He had just settled into his position when COVID-19 hit. Falter’s biggest challenge was implementing social distancing guidelines of six feet. The custodial crew followed state recommendations to keep the school safe.
Throughout this summer, Falter and his coworkers had to prepare for even more cleaning as a result of the pandemic. The process that goes into cleaning each room is quite simple. First, they take everything out. Then, they fully clean all the furniture, strip the floors, rinse them then wax them, and dust everywhere. They are also responsible for outside maintenance including mowing and taking out dead trees.
The construction that is taking place across the district has presented many challenges for the custodial staff. In the summer, there was nobody at the school so it was easier to accommodate. With everyone back in the buildings, it has been more difficult.
The construction has been isolated in one wing of the building which keeps it aways from the students. Most construction takes place at night. Although some things have to be done during the day, like the delivery of the materials. Some of this construction work has caused gas fumes to leak into classrooms. Falter is the first to hear of these concerns when they arise, and he and his staff work quickly to ensure that every classroom is safe enough to teach in.
Falter and his staff have one simple request for students to lighten their load: treat the school as if it’s their home.