Facilities staff make the most of closures
Posted on: May 6, 2020
While COVID-19 has created challenging circumstances for schools and students, to say the least, facilities staff members at Delano Public Schools have seized on a unique opportunity offered by the building closures to move ahead with various projects at full throttle.
In an ordinary year, the summer months are the time when custodians can catch up on deeper cleaning, painting and other maintenance tasks that are set aside when the demands of school day operations take priority.
Now that COVID-19 has cleared hallways and classrooms months ahead of that normal summer maintenance window, however, the empty school buildings are ripe for numerous improvements that would have been delayed if students and staff were present.
“While it’s not a good situation for actual school, it is a great situation for us because without any kids or teachers here we have time to do things we wouldn’t normally have time to do,” said Building and Grounds Coordinator Matt LaBeau.
The timing is good, because in the wake of recently completed building projects some of the more routine maintenance tasks, particularly in the high school, are overdue.
“Because of construction, we haven’t had time to do much of that,” said LaBeau. “The last two years, the building didn’t get handed over to us (from construction) until two weeks before school started. Parts were handed over, but the whole building wasn’t, and you can’t do all your cleaning in two weeks. We are absolutely still playing catchup on normal, routine maintenance.”
Benefits of an early start
LaBeau said that some portions of the high school had not been painted in 20 years, and that a five-year plan to address that aesthetic issue is now on the fast track.
“We’re hoping to get at least a couple years of that done right now,” said LaBeau, adding that there will be no shortage of work to do through September. “We’ll get as much painting done as we can.”
Hallways throughout the building are now getting a uniform Delano look with a black base that conceals scuff marks topped by an orange stripe and white upper section. The Tiger Activity Center will also be repainted with the signature color scheme.
Lighting in the TAC and the shop areas has been upgraded to brighter LED bulbs, and the old high school gym will also receive LED lighting.
“It will cut our energy costs in half for those areas. We’re looking, long term, to make the school run more efficiently,” said LaBeau, explaining that new or remodeled sections of the high school already have LED lights.
In addition to new lighting, the shop areas have also received new garage doors. Prices have been sought to repave the north parking lot. Gym floors have been sanded and refinished. Work has been done to create more secure vestibules. The handicap ramp at the football field has been replaced, new fire-rated wall mats have been installed in the special education area, and contractors have installed new monument signs at the entrances to the school campus.
The pool area has already received its full summer cleaning so that, when activities do resume again, there will not be any interruptions for maintenance. A campus Frisbee golf course, taken down a few years ago for the school’s construction projects, is also slated to be re-installed. Another upcoming project is replacement of the floor in the old high school media center.
In one change to routine, hallways are now grinded with diamond buffing pads rather than waxed.
“It’s more environmentally friendly and it looks like a million bucks on that terrazzo floor,” school board member Corey Black told other board members during the Building and Grounds Committee report on Monday, April 27.
The early maintenance start has been particularly beneficial in the kindergarten wing of the elementary school, which would not have otherwise received its full summer cleaning this year. Due to construction around the Community Education building, Tiger Kids Club had been scheduled to relocate to that area during the summer months.
Elsewhere in the elementary, halls and common areas have been wiped down, rooms have been painted and work has proceeded on plans for the secure vestibule.
While the intermediate school is still relatively new, custodians have refinished the gym floor, cleaned hallway carpets, touched up drywall and painting projects, completely wiped down rooms, and cut and finished an opening for the IT room.
At the Community Education building, facilities staff members are re-keying the whole building to a master key system, summer cleaning and painting is taking place on the second floor, and four bathrooms are receiving new tile floors, paint and partitions.
About 90 percent of the cost for the projects currently underway is covered by long-term facilities maintenance funds, which can only be spent on the physical buildings.
“It comes from the state and you can’t do anything else with it,” said LaBeau. “You can’t spend it on chairs and desks. If you turned the building upside down and shook it, whatever is still attached to the building is what you can spend it on.”
Funding for the LED lights is coming from interest accumulated on construction bonds. Most of the remainder is covered by LaBeau’s maintenance budget. He noted that even with the aggressive work schedule underway, he still expects to finish the fiscal year under budget.
Board, staff appreciative
Black and other members of the school board’s Building and Grounds Committee were impressed with the improvements made so far. He said that with new lighting and paint, along with work done on the floors, “the TAC looks brand new.”
Delano High School Principal Dr. Steve Heil agreed.
“The school, both inside and outside, looks great. It’s actually shines now,” he told board members on April 27. “I think the students and community members, when they get to come in here, are going to be shocked.”
Heil later added that “it’s unfortunate the kids aren’t in school, but [LaBeau and his custodial crew have] taken full advantage … so if you ever see those guys around say ‘thank you,’ because I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to them.”
School Board Chair Lisa Seguin added her thanks during the meeting.
“They have just plowed through their list and the building looks really great, so we’re looking forward to being able to get back in there someday and have everyone enjoy it,” she said.