By Chevi Rabbit
For Ponoka News
We’ve heard about frontline healthcare workers, truck drivers and teachers, but one profession that hasn’t been highlighted a lot during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is school custodians, working to keep learning spaces clean and sanitized.
Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) is a public school authority operated out of Ponoka and oversees Alix, Bentley, Bluffton, Ponoka, Clive, Lacombe, Ekville, Blackfalds and Rimbey.
Andy Jeans, WCPS custodial/grounds supervisor states that pre-COVID-19, the custodian’s role focused on daily cleaning and sanitizing of the building and grounds.
He says the janitorial industry has traditionally been an unsung vocation in general, but the praise and support within the Wolf Creek division has always been strong, and never more than this year.
To ensure a safe and healthy return during the pandemic, schools have increased the sanitization of key, high-touch areas, such as door knobs, push panels and crash bars, toilet handles, cubicle doors, taps, dispensers, water fountains and reception areas. These critical areas are sanitized a minimum of three times a day.
Wolf Creek custodians are also on call throughout the day to disinfect a work space if that student or teacher has displayed any of the core COVID symptoms and has been removed to an isolation area.
The custodian then disinfects the isolation area after use, and appropriately disposes of any materials needed for that. They also ensure that hand sanitizing dispensers and disinfectant spray bottles are filled when needed.
“Wolf Creek Schools have seen a number of changes like face masks have been provided, distance markers have been installed in all buildings, more hands-free options installed, and plexiglass dividers are supplied where needed,” said Jeans.
“That the janitorial industry has traditionally been an unsung vocation in general and that it’s definitely not the most glamorous job in the world, but our custodians take great pride in the job they do and the buildings they protect.”
Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission (MESC) is the education authority for all of Maskwacîs’s 11 schools serving 2,148 students.
“The role of the custodial staff has indeed become appreciated much more now than in the past,” said Randy Risto- Kanikânîstahk Kâsîtoskâke, associate superintendent and executive director of MESC corporate services.
“Here services are critical in the battle against this pandemic. Our custodial staff are professionals and are becoming noticed for their excellent work.”
Vincent Yellowbird, Kanâcihcikewin Kâmâmowâcihtat coordinator of Custodial Services Health and Safety says that all custodial staff receive ongoing training and certification with DCS Global Pandemic Cleaning Program for educational institutions.
The courses that MESC custodians have completed so far are: certified inspection, customized cleaning specifications utilizing DCS clean and safe protocols, training curriculum janitorial triage and procedures for COVID-19, hygiene testing and auditing and supervisory training for lead hands.
MESC will also soon be purchasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) hygiene testing equipment; their cleaning supervisor and lead hands are scheduled to be trained using the equipment in early December, 2020 by DCS Global Enterprises Inc.
Yellowbird says that ATP hygiene monitoring provides accurate and traceable verification of the hygienic status of a surface, which is a key component of a good hygiene program. Yellowbird also says that MESC has partnered with a locally-owned commercial cleaner Jani-King to provide enhanced commercial cleaning services.