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Keeping a school up and running is a lot of work

Melissa Topey • Aug 4, 2014 at 6:00 PM


Students will be walking the halls of Sandusky High School on Aug. 18.

Thanks to the people working in the maintenance and custodial departments the floors will be gleaming clean, the desks will be set up and the bleachers will be safe.

This team of 25 people are directed by Kevin Toms, supervisor building, facilities and maintenance.

His honey do list never ends.

“My phone is always be my side waiting for the next call,” Toms said.

I was “On The Job” working with Toms and several members of his team on Friday as they rush to prepare for the quickly arriving school year.

My first assignment was to help clean and strip the floor of a classroom in the Middle School. Helping me was Bob Sullivan, Rex Dunn and Ervin Dewey.

Sullivan showed me how to use the piece of equipment that cleans and strips the floor, affectionately known as "Tornado." The machine has a mixture of water, soap and ammonia that cleans and strips some of the wax off the floor.

It was as simple as hold the handle and hit the button.

Not really. My first moments I was not sure how to control its direction.

Dunn took over to show me with one hand how easy it is to handle 'Tornado'.

“Hey. Hey. We do not show me up,” I protested in mock indignation to everyone's laughter.

I tried it again and quickly had the hang of it.

I immediately felt the work in my shoulders.

These men have 130 rooms to do. They have to have strong shoulders and arms of steel.

I cleaned that floor.

“You did good for the first time, I was impressed,” Dewey said.

Then we broke out a piece of equipment that sucks up the water and wax. They call this the 'typhoon,' Toms said.

I went back over the floor and sucked up the wet mess, leaving it dry and ready for the process to be repeated.

“We have to head out to the soccer field,” Toms said as he hung up his cell phone.

Eventually the floor will be waxed but I left the men to do that.

Toms and I headed out to the soccer field at the Venice Heights Elementary School where I would help paint strips on the field.

“The key to striping is straight lines,” Toms said.

“Can you go behind me and fix my work,” I asked.

I had visions of my lines gracefully curving back and forth like I had a couple of the Gimlet's I enjoy from time to time.

“There is no straightening paint,” he laughed.

As we drove Toms told me a new custodial crew member doing that work will often slip a couple times before they get the hang of it. I can be clumsy so I was proud I did so well and stayed on my feet.

At the soccer field I met up with Dennis Alexander.

It was going on 11 a.m and it was already getting warm outside.

He does this every week, going through 65 gallons of paint to strip two football fields and the soccer field. He does not keep track of how much he sweats doing this job. I wore a thin but long sleeved shirt, I was already sweating.

This is a job you want to do early in the morning.

Alexander showed me how to run the machine.

The left handle operates the forward motion of the stripper while the right handle sprays the paint.

They had me free hand a practice strip down a side of the field.

I looked back to check out my work and laughed.

I did okay but there was a very noticeable curve in a section of the strip.

Toms and Alexander were not worried.

I was about to strip the center line down the soccer field.

They had set up a string.

As long as I kept the string in between two metal pieces I would be okay.

“Okay” I said, not at all sure but I started.

I realized I could also see a faint line from a previous strip. My eyes never left that faint white path.

Alexander was with me when I made it completely across the field.

My arms were still vibrating from the machine.

I looked back.

“You were pretty straight,” Alexander said obviously impressed with my skill.

I was feeling pretty good when Toms and I left the field.

This was just a small snapshot of what the maintenance and custodial department does.

Everything will get cleaned, repaired and inspected. The team jumped into action starting when the teachers left on June 11. They are shooting for Aug. 1 to have there work done.

This crew does not get any summer vacations.

Maintenance by the numbers

21 custodians and 4 maintenance employees (3 and 1 groundskeeper) responsible for:

50 acres of grass to seed, water and mow

850,000 square feet of buildings to maintain

About 250 work orders a month

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