Clean Your Hearts (And Your Tables Too)


Ayah Khamis , Staff Writer

When I walk into lunch every day, I notice the trash left in the hallways, on the tables, on the ground. As I enter the cafeteria, I see janitors cleaning each table before the storm of students arrives. They also pick up the trash on the floors and tables that other students have left. This is an issue. Obviously, a janitor’s job is to maintain a clean environment, but this should not undermine the fact that they are human beings as well. The janitor should not have to collect trash carelessly left behind by some students. There needs to be more recognition and respect for the work that these people do.

I spoke with Mr. Sanchéz, head custodian at Morris Hills, to get a better understanding of the role of the janitors at our school. 

At 7:00 am, Mr. Sanchéz begins his day. He has been working at Morris Hills for twenty years. In addition to the daily tasks the janitors have to do, Mr. Sanchéz receives and responds to various emails that request other jobs for the custodians to do. Some of the requests include moving furniture to certain places, cleaning specific areas of the school, and performing maintenance on items such as the lights and hanging objects. Along with the jobs requested by emails, each custodian also has a specific area that needs to be cleaned daily. They clean all areas of the school, including the outside school grounds. Also, when there is snow on the ground, it is the custodian’s job to shovel before the buses arrive. 

The custodians also have the responsibility of setting up for sports events. Based on the sports season, the custodians have different tasks to perform.  For example, in the spring, the janitors have the responsibility to set up the batting cages for baseball and softball teams. They set up the relays for the track events hosted at Morris Hills as well. Their biggest sport event is the Morris Hills Relays (where over 30 schools attend). In the winter, they set up the basketball courts and wrestling matches. Every day, they  move the cafeteria tables in order for the fencers to practice. 

Cleaning the locker rooms is also the custodian’s responsibility.  They have to clean lockers and a lot of the time, they need to pick up athletes’ clothes and shoes from the ground and put them back in their lockers. 

When most of the Morris Hills community takes time off in the summer, the custodians actually have their busiest schedules.  During the summertime, the janitors have the job to remove the furniture from the classes and sanitize all of the furniture. The janitors thoroughly clean every single room, locker, and hanging light. The floors are washed and polished with new wax. They paint any areas that need repainting. 

Being a custodian is a stressful job, especially when they have to set up for special events. Custodians sometimes have to set up and take down 200-300 chairs.  For example, for graduation there are chairs set up both in Gifford Field and indoors in the gym in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.  The pandemic has made the  job of custodian even  more difficult. Now,  custodians must use special chemicals to disinfect the school. Every day, they make sure that each classroom contains the sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. These new procedures have increased the responsibility the custodians have in order to keep the school clean and safe. When custodians are out sick or not available, the other custodians need to double their workload. 

A lot of the cleaning issues arise for custodians from the students. The bathroom seems to have the most problems. Mr. Sanchez mentioned that there has been toilet paper all dumped in the toilet. There is graffiti on the bathroom stalls. The soap dispenser has been removed from the wall. These spaces are meant for students to use.  Because it’s our space, we should treat those areas with respect and not add unnecessarily to the workload of custodial staff.  

While the majority of the students do throw away their lunch trays and garbage during lunch, there is still a decent amount of students who do not. When lunch ends, custodians have a limited amount of time to clean before the next group of students enter.  One small thing students can do to help custodians is to throw away their food trays and leftover food.  Take responsibility for yourself.  When in the locker room, be sure that clothes and shoes are in your locker before you leave.

Every day staff and students walk into school, go into their respective classrooms and begin their day. We do not pay attention to the clean hallways, classrooms, floors, and lunch tables. When the day ends, we leave school, unconcerned about having to clean because we expect the next day it will be all clean again. And the next day, it always is–thanks to the Morris Hills custodians.

Our custodians  are incredibly busy and go out of their way to ensure that the school is functioning properly. They work incredibly hard to ensure that the school maintains optimal sanitary conditions.  The school populations should be more understanding and empathetic towards the major role janitors play in our school. Mr. Sanchez is incredibly kind, hardworking, dedicated to his job and proud of the work that his staff does.  

Mr. Sanchez smiled, saying, “We try our best.”  Let’s all try to make it easier for them to do that.