The stereotype of the school janitor with a bucket and mop is way out of step with the reality of modern essential school staff. Regardless of what you may have seen on television, custodians are different than janitors. While both may perform cleaning tasks, janitors may travel from one building to another to clean.
The custodian, on the other hand, is more like the guardian of a specific school building or building. In fact, the word custodian is derived from the Latin word custodia, meaning “guarding, watching, keeping.”
More Than a Mop
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the on-again-off-again rollercoaster of schools opening, then closing, then opening again highlighted the importance of the school custodian role. On top of routine cleaning, custodians are responsible for disinfecting, deep cleaning during school breaks, groundskeeping, maintenance and repair, and building security.
School custodians are responsible for selecting janitorial equipment and supplies and determining how best to clean a variety of areas, from restrooms to pool decks to library carpeting. They use modern ride-on or self-propelled floor cleaning and polishing machines, battery-powered vacuums that can travel easily without a long cord, and sophisticated disinfecting systems that can treat an entire bathroom without having to wipe down every individual surface.
Members of the School Community 24/7
A custodian’s work is never done. When there is an equipment failure, a weather emergency, a broken window, or a failing light fixture, a school custodian will be on call to take care of the problem.
Teachers and students know and appreciate their school custodians, who are full members of the school community. They set up and tear down tables and chairs after school activities and clean up after school dances and concerts. Students know their names and greet them as they pass in the halls, knowing the custodian will be there to fix things if there’s a dropped tray in the cafeteria, an overflowing garbage bin, or a burned-out bulb on the school marquis.
Now that you’ve learned three things you didn’t know about school custodians, show some appreciation to the custodial staff the next time you visit your child’s school building. The gleaming floors and sanitized bathrooms are there because of their hard work.