Keeping students in the classroom

Published 6:39 pm Friday, February 26, 2021

Roger Staupe has been keeping Pacelli High School clean for the last eight years, but he’s never had a school year quite like this one.

Staupe is one of many area custodians who have found themselves hustling to keep the buildings safe for students and staff. His workload has seen a big increase, but he says it is worth it to see the smiles on the faces of the students who have been able to attend in-person learning.

“I would say the work is probably double or triple on us. It’s a lot more stress. I try to keep a smile on my face and do what I have to do,” Staupe said. “With the kids around here, it’s all about the true laughter in the hallways and the stairwells. That’s what keeps bringing me back. It doesn’t even matter that there’s COVID going on, I’m always enthralled with coming and hearing what the kids have to say. They always have something different and unusual to say and you always hear great laughter.”

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Staupe said he was able to catch up on a lot of work during the shutdown, but he would rather be in a school that is filled with students, even if that means he has to work harder.

“It’s go, go, go because we’re crunched down on time. You’ve got to have ambition,” Staupe said. “There are times when you climb stairs and all of the sudden you feel a burn in the legs, but you know it’s worth it.

Staupe is Pacelli High School’s lone full-time janitor and the school also employs two part-time custodians. Pacelli principal Kane Malo said that all three custodians have stepped up to the plate as they’ve had to clean hand rails and bathrooms three times a day instead of the normal one time a day this year.

“We’re asking our custodians to do more in a day than they have in the past. The things that used to be done once, are now being done multiple times to keep the students, faculty and staff safer and healthier as we go through,” Malo said. Our custodians have all done their share with the extra work to make sure our kids are staying healthy.”

Jamie Goebel, superintendent and principal at Lyle High School, said that the custodians at Lyle have played a big part in keeping the building running in the middle of a pandemic. Lyle custodians Joel Johnson and Tarek Heimermann have not only kept the building clean, they also offered input on how to make effective changes.

Johnson, the daytime custodian, also made it a point to greet students at the front door every day, smiling and welcoming them to a new day of learning.

“Joel has actively become involved in their morning routine, welcoming each of our students into our building,” Goebel said. “Our students appreciate his presence and this has made a positive impact on everyone. Our custodians are such an integral part of our building and it is vital our students know and respect them.”

Even in a regular year, custodians are often unsung contributors within the building during the school day. The pandemic has brought their work to the forefront and given them a chance to shine.

“The job of a custodian is one of the backbone of the entire school operation,” Goebel said. “Their duties of cleaning the hallways, bathrooms, lunchrooms, gymnasiums, and tending to the outside of our building oftentimes go unnoticed as these duties are completed behind the scenes of our staff and students.”