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Summer but not vacation for school custodians

The Discovery Middle School janitorial staff, led by Randy Bruun, is remodeling the school’s media center to create a more open learning and collaboration space for students. (Alexis Habberstad | Echo Press)1 / 2
Head Custodian of Discovery, Randy Bruun (right) never skips a beat, working eight hour days during the week all summer completing large scale maintenance projects with his crew, Don Casanova, left, and James Carlson, middle. (Alexis Habberstad | Echo Press)2 / 2

For students and educators, the annual three-month stretch of warm weather is commonly coined "summer vacation," but for the custodial staff of Alexandria Public Schools the summer months are anything but.

"It's kind of thought that we are nine months out of the year schooling, but that is definitely not the case," said Trevor Peterson, business services director of Alexandria Public Schools. "There are other things going on in our facilities. Summer proves to be our chance to get a lot of deferred maintenance and large projects done."

Campuses are also used during the summer. Discovery Middle School and several of the elementary schools in the district host summer programs.

The to-do list varies from school to school, Peterson said. For Discovery Middle School, this means larger-scale pool maintenance and cleaning out the media center. For Garfield and Miltona, old set of lockers were torn out and new ones installed. At all schools, classrooms are cleaned out entirely during the summer months for the walls to be washed down and the carpets shampooed. Custodial staff may also help relocate teachers who are moving classrooms, replace ceiling tiles and air filters, refinish gym floors, paint, or repair or replace windows, doors and other equipment.

One employee carrying out these tasks is Randy Bruun, head custodian at Discovery. Bruun, whose typical summer workday starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m., chuckled.

"It's definitely not a vacation. It's work from when you get here to when you get home."

Bruun said that another thing that differs between the school year and summer months (besides the noise levels) is what his work day looks like.

"There's not basic things to do," he said. "During the school year, you have a general routine. You set up the cafeteria for meals for example. Without the kids here, that isn't in the picture anymore. It's a different atmosphere without the 950 kids in the school."

Custodial staff attends meetings in the summer, and some have to take refresher courses, he said. At Discovery, the media center was remodeled this summer, and the pool went through a lengthy draining and cleaning process.

The tasks custodians have to do are outlined on a list approved by the school board each year based on the funds and staff available, Peterson said. Planning takes place from there.

In areas where more help is needed, the school may contract with other companies. For those projects, the school's staff and coordinator is still present behind the scenes.

"We do hire some extra seasonal help on our grounds staff for mowing and weed control," Peterson said. "We try to juggle our building and grounds staff and figure out key times to get them to locations where we need more help."