Overwhelmed and overworked: LASA’s Custodian shortage

Somaya Jimenez-Haham, Staff Writer

Trash bins overflow with wrappers and food, tumbling out of the top. A thin film of dust coats the floor, and grime leaves the table surfaces sticky and textured. The understaffed team of custodians, although working tirelessly, has had trouble sufficiently cleaning both LASA and LBJ schools.

LASA assistant principal San Czaplinski said the custodian shortage has had a large impact on students and faculty. She receives texts and calls on a daily basis about rooms which need to be swept, as well as basic needs such as cleaning spills.

“There’s a health issue, in my opinion, which we need to address,” Czaplinski said. “Bathrooms, for example, are often out of toilet paper, or hand towels, or soap, for handwashing. … The flu is obviously something we’re addressing right now, so that’s a big concern. I know teachers have resorted to getting Clorox wipes that they use in their classrooms and hand sanitizer for students and things like that.”

LASA sent out an announcement to teachers saying if they wanted a broom and dustpan, they could request one. These supplies were delivered the last week of February. Czaplinski said she has already seen teachers come in early to sweep their classrooms.

“That’s a little frustrating to see, to be honest,” Czaplinski said. “I feel like teachers already are so spread thin with responsibilities and other expectations that the last thing you want is ‘Okay, you also have to clean your classroom.’”

English teacher Elisha Adelman has had students needing to work in the hallway because their allergies were so bad as a result of all the dirt on the floor.

“If I come in before school and I notice the floor is dirty, and that I need to sweep, I’m sweeping instead of doing other things,” Adelman said. “I can technically make up that time at some point, but time is finite, and that might be a time that I’m sweeping and talking to students about their work, instead of just talking to a student. … And there is always the concern about bugs, other related germs.”

Czaplinski said the shortage in the custodial department has only started to worsen in the past two years. She believes the morale has hit a low.

“I would say that the concern of a custodial cleaning is beyond a shortage, to be honest,” Czaplinski said. “It’s progressively getting worse. Now I think that the current supervisor with LBJ is really really good and he’s on top of it. [He is] helping them…get a better grasp of their team and helping them motivating the team and getting them all on board.”

Head custodian Steve Davis has worked on the campus for four years. According to Davis, both he and his staff have to pick up where they are short on staff during shortages, and Davis often ends up working late hours.

“We have to separate [the school] into sections, which will be all the custodians who have to have four rooms, three rooms, two rooms, bathrooms, and halls,” Davis said. “So, that means I have to break it down everywhere, so everybody’s doing something. ”

Czaplinski said the school had three open positions at the beginning of the year, one of which is for a custodian on medical leave. However, one of the two completely vacant spots has been filled, and the second position is in the process of being filled.

“We have had substitutes from the service center that they’ll send over, but those are not consistent,” Czaplinski said. “Also, it could change from one sub one day, and a totally different sub another day. This means that you’re having to explain procedures or areas in rooms that need to be addressed to different people, and that also takes time.”

Davis is thankful for all the help from both schools with duties such as putting out trash or recycling and stacking chairs. He wants to recognize his staff for all the hard work they have done.

“There [are] not enough words to say thank you, because when you’re three people short in a big school like LBJ, it really means a lot when everybody pitches in and helps,” Davis said. “I know it wasn’t easy, but I really thank them for bearing with me and understanding. I want to tell our teachers, the principals, and each and everyone, I thank them for every little thing they’ve done. Even when they pick up a piece of paper off the floor, and throw it in the trash for us, I just want to say thank you.”