VHS custodial staff goes above and beyond amidst the pandemic
By Lila Cohen, Social Media Editor
When COVID-19 hit last March, too many it felt like the world had shut down. Many were forced to retreat to their homes, and it was difficult to imagine when life would get back to normal. However, while most were at home, essential workers were still working, performing the jobs that are necessary to keep society running.
Even when teachers were sent to work from home last year, VHS’ custodial staff worked to keep the school clean and functional for the kitchen staff who were preparing food for islanders, and the daycare that was providing childcare for local frontline workers.
The VHS custodial staff is made up of day-shift custodian Hermalinda Rivas, rotating night-shift custodians Elmer Rivas, Vicki Nielson, and Tania Busch, and custodian Hector Martinez who floats between all three schools.
VHS custodians were asked to go above and beyond their normal responsibilities this year, and as new information was learned about the virus, practices changed.
“We had a different protocol which was based on evidence-based practice; cleaning high touch surfaces, and trying to disinfect as much as we possibly could… And that… changed our protocol from [our previous tasks, such as taking out the] garbage, vacuuming, cleaning restrooms, [etc.],” Director of Facilities Kevin Dickerson said. “So [we’ve] ended up [having] to do all the normal stuff, plus [having] the ‘lens of COVID,’ as we call it, with the cleaning and disinfecting.”
The higher workload during a global pandemic has taken its toll on the mental well-being of the members of the custodian team.
“Having a lot of people out of the building and still being required to be at work during the pandemic… created [difficulties] for the team…I can’t say that they reached burnout, but I am conscious of that and try hard not to contribute to that [especially] knowing that we didn’t really have the break that everyone else had.” Dickerson said.
To manage and cope with the difficulties that come with living and working through a global pandemic, teamwork has been a cornerstone of VHS’ success. Different sectors of VHS grounds and maintenance staff have pitched in to help each other out.
“[When we were short staffed], the maintenance team would come in and support the custodial group. And grounds would do the same thing. We were all over the place, definitely a team effort [and] still is a team effort. And I will tell you that as a director, I am grateful that I have a team that’s willing to go above and beyond.”
Now that students have returned to campus, they have an opportunity to support the VHS’ custodial staff and be part of the team that has kept the school functioning smoothly.
“It takes all of us to limit our footprint, and to look out for our neighbor. Every little bit counts… Again, we’re all in this together. We all have been faced with this pandemic… [Even a] quick thank you to… the custodial staff, that goes really far. Just a little bit of acknowledgement to let them know that you see what they’re doing. And that… they’re valued. That is the biggest thing.” Dickerson said.
The Riptide is deeply grateful and appreciative of the work VHS custodians do for the school, this year and beyond. The Riptide thanks Hermalinda Rivas, Vicki Nielson, Tania Busch, Hector Martinez, Elmer Rivas as well as the grounds and maintenance staff for all that they do for the VHS community.