Students Assist Custodial Staff

Elaine Liu, Co-Print Managing Editor

In the custodial room, a wall-length poster announces, “Thank you, custodial staff!!” in pink and green letters. Small notes in neon pink, orange and yellow pasted on the cabinets further share students’ gratitude for Tompkins’s 17 custodians, a small group of hard-working and dedicated individuals who devote their time to the school.

Ten minutes before A Lunch, four custodial staff members enjoy their lunches, piles of clean towels surrounding them. They happily discuss the day’s events and plan their tasks. Alba Hernandez, the head custodian, sits among her staff, smiling and appreciating their company.

“(Custodians) help with the teachers… when they need something, focus on the cafeteria for lunch and breakfast, and clean restrooms and hallways,” said Hernandez.

Each day, two custodians work from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and four other custodians work from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Then, the chief night custodian works from 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The difficulty of the custodians’  task depends on how clean the teachers and students maintain the classroom.

“They could help us keep the room clean, pick up the papers (and) not make a mess,” said Hernandez.

Occasionally, a group of students helps the custodians clean after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The group, part of FORCE (Falcons Out Rendering Community Enhancement), allows the students to earn service hours. Donna Clement, the director, recognized the shortage of custodians and decided to open up this service opportunity for students, believing it would benefit both parties.

“Obviously, the custodians are short-staffed, so it helps them out, and they can focus on other needs for this campus as far as the cleanliness is concerned other than just picking up trash,” said Clement. “The students, focusing on the trash, can see what an impact they have.”

Through their service, the students grow awareness of the amount of trash the school accumulates, motivating them to dispose of their waste correctly. As a result, the change in the students’ behavior encourages students to continue serving others. Clement believes mutual respect between the students and custodians develops a healthy school atmosphere.

“(Custodians) are the keepers of our building,” said Clement. “We spend the majority of our day entirely here at school, and they’re the ones who are charged with keeping it a clean and safe environment for us, and so I think being able to help them out in any way, shape or form helps keep a safe work environment for them as well. It shows that we value what they do.”

Despite the long hours and laborious work, Hernandez finds it satisfying to assist the students and teachers. She enjoys cleaning the cafeteria, following her motto of keeping everything spotless. Therefore, the lunch periods are her favorite time of the day.

“I clean the table and have everything clean when the lunch is coming to eat,” said Hernandez.