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For nearly the entire school year, there has been a shortage of custodians at the Hill, which means classrooms don’t get vacuumed as often and deep cleaning, like shampooing carpets or dusting gets put on the back burner. Yet, the problem isn’t the custodians. It is the lack of staffing and a broken system created by the district. Sometimes, emptying the trash cans, cleaning the bathrooms, cafeteria and quad are all they can do in an eight hour shift, especially on game nights, when they also are responsible for setting up for and cleaning up after the event. Also, when someone from the custodial staff calls in sick, there is rarely a substitute to fill in for them because all the custodial subs are assigned to elementary schools first, and there simply are not enough subs to go around. This means the custodians who do come to work have to do the work of the missing custodians, which means they’re overworked and often feel guilty because they cannot service the classrooms to the standard they would like. Several factors have contributed to this shortage.
First, according to FHS administration, finding and hiring qualified custodians is quite a challenge. Some custodial positions have not been filled after custodians quit or transferred, but it hasn’t been from lack of trying. “We will fly a custodial job and get like twelve applicants,” assistant principal Russell Quering explained. “We will call all twelve, and I would say that five of them answer and call us back. So that’s seven who applied for a job who don’t show up. And then out of the five, we will set interviews, and two of them won’t show up. So then we are down to like three people out of those twelve that we interview. Lately, they have been all out-of-district people or bus drivers because these people don’t want to drive a bus anymore. Not many experienced custodians apply for this job.”
One of the reasons custodial work might seem unappealing is the low salary. A CCSD custodian makes between $12-$16 an hour, which is higher than the average pay for custodians at places that are not hotels or casinos in Las Vegas (which is $11), but it is much lower than the average pay for a custodian who works at a casino or hotel.
The people who apply for custodial jobs at Foothill also apply at other places, including other schools, casinos, hotels, and any other businesses. Out of all those options, working at a casino or hotel is seemingly the best option, with their average pay being anywhere from $18 to $36 per hour. These higher wages certainly make working for CCSD less appealing, which means fewer custodians apply for the open jobs, and it is harder to retain those who do get hired.
The way that CCSD determines how many custodians are allotted to a school is by square footage of the school. But this only includes the classrooms, not the cafeteria or the gym, which are huge chunks of any school that take hours to clean. There are two shifts, morning and night. During the day, there are three custodians, and at night there are six, which means that every night, there are only six people to clean the entire school and set up and clean up for after school-events.
The district needs to increase funding for custodial staff to make their salaries more competitive with Strip hotels. Their pay simply can’t compare to that of the hotels and casinos along the Strip. A hotel property should not be more important than a school. CCSD also needs to stop pretending that the cafeteria, gym and after-school events don’t exist. In addition, they need to hire more substitute custodians so that current custodians are not so overworked and so that all the work can get completed each day/night.
One solution could be to have teachers fill in as substitute custodians. Interested teachers could be trained in basic custodial duties, and when a sub is needed, an email could inform those trained teachers of available vacancies, and they could then opt in if they wanted to make more money that day. The district would not have to do background checks and other new employee paperwork, and teachers would just receive their extra pay on their next paycheck. It seems like a win-win-win for the district, teachers and custodians.
While we wait for CCSD to take action, there’s something we students and teachers can do. If you want the school to be clean, well, don’t make a mess! I know those 10 extra steps to the trash can seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but trust me, no one wants to walk over your discarded Starbucks cup in the hallway, or your salad plate remnants or pizza crusts in the quad. If we all work together, we can make the Hill a cleaner, happier place.