School Custodians Continue Cleaning Yet Worry About Pay Amid Closings
Businesses continue to temporarily close across the United States to stop people from gathering and spreading COVID-19, from restaurants and health clubs to theaters and museums. Although these enterprises could be considered luxuries, the closings also involve facilities housing necessary activities, mainly workplaces and schools.
So far almost 40 million students in at least 37 states are missing classes, and those numbers are sure to rise. School custodians have been in the forefront of the action cleaning schools while they remained open, and deep cleaning empty campuses to prepare them for students’ return. The Harvard Gazette examined the role campus service workers, including custodians, played amid the exodus of students.
Workers with the university’s custodial services department have been concentrating their cleaning efforts on common areas with a lot of high-touch surfaces, such as restrooms, lobbies, elevators, and kitchenettes. On the shuttle buses, they regularly cleaned and disinfected all surfaces including handrails and seats to reduce potential contamination for people using public transit.
Once educational facilities are empty, universities and school districts are struggling with who gets paid during the shutdowns, Education Week reports. Shutdowns in some communities can be especially hard on school employees who don’t have much, if any, paid time off.
Federal officials are currently negotiating a nationwide paid-leave policy that would include school workers. Currently, there is no date expected for when the bill will pass. In the meantime, states and school districts are figuring out these difficult decisions on their own. In most cases, local school boards have the final say on how sick leave is administered for teachers and nonteacher personnel alike, taking into account recommendations from school officials and labor unions where applicable.