SCHOOL CLEANING CURTAILED - Tucson Local Media: Import

SCHOOL CLEANING CURTAILED

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Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Some custodians within Amphitheater School District say they are having to cut corners in cleaning due to recent budget cuts that forced the district to eliminate several positions within the district.

Holaway Elementary School laid off one of its three full time janitors, leaving one to clean during the day and one to clean at night. Another part-time janitor also comes in from Prince Elementary for two hours a day, four times a week, to help out during mid-afternoon. From about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., though, only one janitor is on duty at the school, raising the concerns of teachers and staff not only for the cleanliness of the school, but for the janitor's safety.

"There are very limited ways for us to ensure safety," said Mike McCrory, Holaway's principal. "We're doing everything we can."

McCrory said janitors are able to lock themselves in whatever wing of the school they are cleaning to ensure no one breaks into the building while they are cleaning, but whenever the janitor leaves the wing to move on to another area of the school, they are exposed to dangerous situations, McCrory said.

Doug Aho, executive manager for school operations for Amphi, said 7.4 positions were eliminated in elementary schools, 4.2 were eliminated from middle schools, and four were added at the high school level with the addition of Ironwood Ridge High School. Amphi has 18 schools plus an administrative center. Of more than a half dozen high ranking Amphi officials contacted by the Northwest EXPLORER, none could provide any data to compare how many custodians were working in the district last year compared to this year.

McCrory said last year, Holaway had two full-time janitors working the night shift and were in constant communication with each other through two-way radios, which provided some security.

Cliff Hanson, Holaway's daytime janitor, said the workload for himself and the night janitor is "tremendous."

"You can't do the job with two people," he said.

Hanson also said he has to often decide what chores are most important to do for the day, which means some chores do not get done.

"It's kind of a catch 22," he said. "What do you clean?"

Richard Hooley, Amphi's associate superintendent and director of school operations, said the district is putting up fencing around some schools to address security issues.

"We also might have a group of security people focus on those schools," he said.

The cutbacks have also sparked concerns from teachers and parents at the school who are saying classrooms just aren't getting clean enough.

Cheryl Lundgren, Holaway's music teacher, said she has to have her students come in on their free time to help her clean her classroom which she says is full of dust.

"I have to have my students roll back the rug so we can clean under it," she said. "And the only time I can have students help me is during their free time during lunch."

At the Amphi Governing Board meeting Aug. 29, Lundgren also mentioned she had to buy an air purifier for her classroom so it would stay clean.

"I know some teachers who are saying they are not getting their wastebaskets emptied," Lundgren said.

McCrory said since the custodial staff is sparse, the school has needed to prioritize when it comes to what gets cleaned first. The most important thing, McCrory said, is the bathrooms.

"It's impossible for one person to clean the entire campus," he said.

After the bathrooms are cleaned, the custodian does what he can to clean the remaining classrooms.

McCrory said the custodian will clean one part one night, and the other part the next night, and keep switching back and forth.

The "flip-flopping," McCrory said, has had an impact on the cleanliness of the school.

"We're noticing classrooms aren't as clean as before," he said.

Dick Beamis, a P.E. teacher at Holaway, said the gym floor, which his students often have to sit on for P.E. activities, is not getting cleaned the way it should be, and that he often has to clean the floor himself.

"A lot of things that used to be done aren't getting done," he said.

Even though McCrory said the school's bathrooms are a priority, Beamis said he often notices the bathrooms are not clean.

"I'm not about to get out my rubber gloves for that job," Beamis said.

McCrory also said Holaway, one of the district's oldest schools, will begin to show its age if not maintained properly.

"I think older schools need more attention," he said.

Amphi High School has also had its share of cuts in its custodial staff.

"Everyone has taken a bite," said Mark Cavendish, head janitor at Amphi High School.

But Cavendish said the school, which lost two full-time janitors and one part-time janitor, is coping despite the cutbacks.

"We have redistributed the workload," he said. "You would not know we have a reduced staff. We've managed to keep up with it. Sometimes the days get a little long."

Other schools, though, have not been able to deal with the cutbacks.

Dave Hanson, head custodian at Cross Middle School, said shifts are now down to six hours instead of eight and the staff also lost one of its part-time employees.

"We have six hours now to get done what we were getting done it eight," he said. "We're not able to keep things up to the level they should be."

Hanson said things like dusting, cleaning the chalkboards and cleaning the windows often go by the wayside for bigger jobs to get the school as clean as possible.

"Everyone has a designated area they clean," he said. "We try to pull together to get things done."

Hanson said the additional 100 students Cross enrolled this year also impacted the cleanliness of the school.

"We gained students but we lost staffing," he said.

Robert Vinyard, principal of Cross Middle School, said he hasn't noticed any significant changes in the cleanliness of the school, and said some custodians have been able to maintain past standards while others have not.

"We have some custodians that work fantastic, and then, quite frankly, we have some that just do the bare minimum," he said. "But if I had my way, we'd have 10 custodians."

Henry Niezabitowski, a custodian at Canyon del Oro High School, began working at the school 16 years ago when the school was much smaller and had 18 custodians. Back then, custodians were assigned a set amount of square footage to clean.

Now, he said, the school has added four large areas and the custodial staff has been cut to 14.

"It's no longer about square footage, it's do the best you can," he said.

Now he said the staff has to cut corners.

"We might be able to clean the boards and the desks, but then we have to not vacuum. It's not something we've had to do in the past."

"Not only do you have more corners to cut, but you have to run around more," agreed Mark Matthews, head custodian at La Cima Middle School.

Matthews said his staff has been able to deal with the cutback of one full-time position so far, but the situation has presented some challenges.

"It's been a test," he said.

Hooley said the district is trying to come up with some plans to alleviate the problem.

"We think that we will try to come up with some plans," Hooley said. "We may be able to do something to assist with deep cleaning."

Ken Smith, Amphi's governing board president, said the district didn't have a choice when it came to making the budget cut.

"Sometimes it's necessary to make cuts that hurt," he said. "It would be possible to have more staff if people wanted to take salary cuts to pay for it. We work with very limited resources."

Smith said the board is not in a position to do anything to alleviate the situation.

Niezabitowski said the district used to have good standards of cleanliness for its schools, but that those have also gone by the wayside.

"We used to have good standards," he said. "Now we just have to forget about certain things. It's a messy situation."

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