Students at the will return back tomorrow to shiny floors, freshly painted walls and sparkling clean classrooms, a product of the custodial staff’s hard work at back-to-school preparations, even through .
“We are getting ready for back to school all summer,” said Rick Ford, the school’s night supervisor. “Although any parent knows the clean walls and shiny floors don’t last long,” he said with a wink.
Ford said although the preparations were set back by Hurricane Irene, which tore off a roof hood and splashed muddy, saltwater on all of the freshly cleaned windows, there was no delay to the first day of school or postponement of any functions held at the school.
He said it took two custodians two full days to clean just the windows again.
“Everywhere you go is a window,” said Ford.
Every summer the custodians strip and seal all of the floors, pull everything out of the classrooms for a deep cleaning, repaint the walls, clean the windows and do repairs.
Ford said the custodians will handle repairs such as plumbing and small electrical and the maintenance staff, which is shared across the public schools, will handle the major repairs.
“For instance we could handle a small leak, but if there was a busted pipe, we would call maintenance,” said Ford.
In addition to the regular preparations, the custodians help set up for the many events that take place at the school.
“We say it’s like the civic center,” said Mike Johnson, who has been a custodian with the public schools for almost 23 years.
Although Mother Nature tested the custodial staff with Hurricane Irene, their dedication allowed the school to not only open on schedule, but also provide a safe and comfortable location to Aquidneck Island residents, as an Ken Bryer, who has been a custodian with Middletown public schools for 13 years, helped set up with the Red Cross.
“There were about 40 to 50 people here,” said Bryer. “It was a mix of young families, tourists who were evacuated from their hotels to people who required oxygen.”
He said the kids at the shelter had a great time, and they didn’t want it to end.
Johnson said that although the job can get stressful, he cannot think of one negative aspect. He really enjoys the students and the other custodians, he said.
When asked what was the most stressful part of the job, Johnson said the hours during a snowstorm.
“We might get a snow removal call at two in the morning,” Johnson said. “Then you have to work your shift the next day.”
Dave Kilmer, the lead custodian, who has been with the school for 24 years, described the summer preparations as “intense.” When asked what his favorite part about the job, he said it was working as a team.
"This place is loaded with good people,” said Ford, when asked why the custodians all have been with the school for so many years. “I love this job, are you kidding me?”
It’s a good thing he does, because Ford’s back to school preparations does not end with his shift at the school. His middle son Colin will be entering Grade 8 this year at Gaudet.
“It’s probably hard on him,” said Ford. “But I know most of the kids, and I love it.”
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