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Understaffed SBCC custodians prioritize ‘important’ cleanliness

A+janitorial+cart+rests+after+the+Drama+and+Music+Building+Thursday+night%2C+Nov.+16%2C+at+City+College.+The+janitorial+staff+attempts+to+keep+the+City+College+campus+clean+even+with+recent+budget+cuts+and+staffing+shortages.+
A janitorial cart rests after the Drama and Music Building Thursday night, Nov. 16, at City College. The janitorial staff attempts to keep the City College campus clean even with recent budget cuts and staffing shortages.

A janitorial cart rests after the Drama and Music Building Thursday night, Nov. 16, at City College. The janitorial staff attempts to keep the City College campus clean even with recent budget cuts and staffing shortages.

James Von Essen

James Von Essen

A janitorial cart rests after the Drama and Music Building Thursday night, Nov. 16, at City College. The janitorial staff attempts to keep the City College campus clean even with recent budget cuts and staffing shortages.

TOVA KIBAL, Associate Editor

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It’s nighttime and the school halls echo empty. The cafeteria is long closed and class is over, but some lights are still shining through building’s windows. A lone figure in the window is one of the few City College custodians.

Two custodians retired last semester of which only one was replaced. One of the custodians retired through the Supplemental Early Retirement Program. The facilities department requested four new custodian hirees, but only one will be replaced next semester.

‘‘When someone calls in sick, there is no one to replace them,’’ said a City College custodian, who asked for his name to not be used because of the sensitivity of the subject.

When this happens, the staff has to get together and figure out a way to cover for the missing custodian. This means that there sometimes is a lot more to do than expected during one shift.

‘‘It is mayhem when someone is not here. It sucks.’’

If there is not enough time to clean to their full potential, the custodians have to prioritize the most important areas. For instance, he explained, that something like mopping a hallway or the stairways might be skipped on a busy shift. Classrooms and bathrooms are always highly prioritized.

Deep cleaning, like shampooing the carpet or taking care of the fans, is usually done at the end of the semester. There is simply not enough time to be spent in one room during a single shift.

‘‘You can only spend that much time in one room, because you run out,’’ he said.

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, Vice President of Business Services Lyndsay Maas sent out a campus-wide survey, with questions regarding custodial services at the school.

‘‘It is a process to change our setup and try and make it better, and that is why we did the survey,’’ said Maas, ‘‘to try and get a benchmark and to try and see what people feel is important.’’

On Nov. 20, 269 people had responded to the survey. 43.5 percent rated that they were ‘‘unsatisfied’’ or ‘‘extremely unsatisfied’’ with the cleanliness of restrooms, but only 24.2 percent were unhappy with the cleanliness of classrooms.

The overall cleanliness of buildings in general was rated with 63 percent ‘‘extremely satisfied’’ or ‘‘satisfied.’’ 20.5 percent were unhappy with the cleanliness of hallways, corridors and common areas.

At the end of the survey, participants could submit specific examples, comments and issues. Maas pointed out that the responses were varied, but many had left a comment saying that they understand the situation.

‘‘Some of them were positive, a lot said ‘we know you’re understaffed so it is okay’, and some were negative.’’

The school is saving money and getting out of a budget deficit, so all the vacant positions had to be ranked through the newly enforced Workforce Reduction Through Attrition Plan. Only one custodian made the list of positions to be replaced.

Maas explained that two of the requested positions was going to be dedicated for the new West Campus building, one was going to replace the vacant position and the fourth one was more generic, saying ‘‘yeah, we need more people.’’ The new building is starting up in the Spring.

‘‘We have a brand new building coming online, and no one dedicated to clean it,’’ she said.

‘‘We are going to have to rework the whole plan of who does what to see who is going to cover the new building.’’

Throughout one day at City College, several classes and teachers come in and out of the classrooms all across campus.

‘‘If a teacher taught two, three classes here and the next teacher shows up in the afternoon, it is going to be dirty,’’ said the custodian.

He also pointed out the fact that some teachers let their students eat in the classroom, and this causes additional mess.

‘‘You’re eating a sandwich, it is dripping everywhere, or there is fries on the floor,’’ he said.

Facilities is not the only department affected by the budget deficit. This is an across-campus issue and City College has tightened its budget in many areas over the last year.

‘‘It is hard to have immediate results to fix things. It is a long-term issue,’’ Maas said.  

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Understaffed SBCC custodians prioritize ‘important’ cleanliness