School custodians and maintenance workers spent the first week or more of the school shutdown in the Gustine and Newman-Crows Landing districts deep cleaning and sanitizing campuses.
While the campuses largely fell dark and quiet, a number of maintenance workers remained on the school grounds - and when facilities are completely sanitized they will use the closure to tend to repairs which otherwise may have waited until the summer months.
“We have already done a top-down cleaning, so there is not a need at this time to go in and clean rooms,” Matt Vargas, the director of operations and maintenance in the Newman-Crows Landing district, told Mattos Newspapers Friday. “We are prepared to open schools as soon as our superintendent and county makes that decision. We will be ready.”
Vargas said the classroom and office cleanings largely mirrored that which would take place in the summer months - but with an emphasis on sanitizing facilities.
“It was more of a disinfecting cleaning as opposed to waxing floors and doing those types of things. We will still do those things in the summer. In case school comes back we wanted to focus more on the sanitizing.”
Russell Hazan, maintenance director for Gustine Unified, said Friday his full custodial/maintenance crew is working as a group through each school site.
“I put every single one of my employees together. We have 15 at every site,” Hazan explained. He said crews were done at Romero and Gustine Elementary, and expected to complete cleaning at Gustine Middle School last week.
Hazan said he has a fogger on order which will be used to further disinfect every room in the district.
As campuses are finished, Hazan said, the grounds and buildings are off-limits to all but authorized staff. He said gate padlocks are being changed to ensure the security of campuses.
Maintenance crews will be busy with exterior projects for some time after the campuses are sanitized, he indicated.
“We have enough outside maintenance work to keep everybody busy for quite a while,” Hazan commented.
Vargas said his NCLUSD crews have shifted to a modified schedule that has them working two to three days a week.
“We still need to maintain our school grounds, just to maintain the grassy areas so they don’t get out of control, he explained. Custodial and maintenance employees are also supporting food service operations at various sites.
“Everybody is working a day or two a week to keep those facilities sanitized and clean on a daily basis,” Vargas noted.
He said staff members are also catching up on work orders that otherwise would wait until summer. Those projects could not be completed while school was in session.
Hazan and Vargas each praised employees for their response to the crisis and contributions during a difficult time.
All his crews have gone above and beyond in their dedication, Vargas said.
Hazan said the same of his team.
“They have been great through all of this,” he commented. “I am so proud of them.”
The COVID-19 crisis and school shutdown comes in the midst of a new classroom wing project at Yolo Middle School.
That work is continuing, Vargas told Mattos Newspapers.
Vargas said that the contractor “has a crew that wants to continue working on the project. It is an important project. It is essential that we get this building open for the August start of the next school year.”
Vargas said the district is taking a number of precautionary steps, such as not allowing maintenance workers to share vehicles and having all deliveries sent to a single location, where they are quarantined for 72 hours before being sent on to their respective destination.
The COVID-19 crisis has been extremely fluid, with new developments at some times coming by the day if not the hours.
Hazan acknowledged that has been the case for school employees as well.
“Everything is a wait and see,” he said of the situation. “What I tell you today may be different tomorrow.”