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No rest for weary custodians

The innards of Klahowya Secondary School are hardly recognizable this time of year. The hallways are void of students, student desks and office chairs are stacked in every nook and cranny and the walls and floors are stripped to their barest elements.

While it may look like chaos reigns, there is a method to the madness and the school’s custodians are masters of that madness. During the summer months, the custodians clean, scrub, polish or wax every square inch of the school to get it ready for the crop of students come September.

Klahowya has more than 140,000-square feet, which can be a bit intimidating to the uninitiated.

“It’s a challenge,” KSS head custodian Al Churchill said. “But somehow we manage to get it done every year.”

The long list of summer tasks includes dusting everything in sight — the light fixtures and the vents; scrubbing spots off the walls; washing all the windows; removing spots off the carpet; shampooing the carpets and stripping and waxing the floors.

Ink splots and latte spills are two things Churchill could certainly do without, as they are the hardest to clean out of carpet, he said.

While dusting is a major task that requires a lot of time and work, the custodians look to newer gadgets for help with some bigger jobs. Scrubbing the more than 25,000-square feet of cafeteria and commons floors is a lot easier with their Zamboni-type riding floor scrubber.

The floor scrubber, which is outfitted with two 12-ounce cup holders, also can be the source of entertainment. Every Halloween, Bob Overby, the second-custodian-in-command, rides the floor scrubber through the hallways and tosses candy to the students.

In addition to getting the school ready for the students, summer time also is useful to complete the tasks that Churchill doesn’t have time to get to during the school year, like patching small holes in the walls. Some of those tasks would take only a half-hour to 45 minutes to complete. During the school year, it is difficult to find that kind of time.

“I’ll start, then get called away on another job,” he said.

There is a secret to getting the building ready in time for school.

“We just start at the ceiling and work our way to the floor,” said Overby, who has been a custodian for longer than the students at Klahowya Secondary have been alive. “Once we clean the floor, we just move on to the next room.”

Overby has been a custodian in the Central Kitsap School District for 24 years. He said he never tires of his job.

“I like working with the kids at the junior high school and high school level,” Overby said.

Overby and Churchill helped opened the school in the fall of 1997.

Churchill also enjoys his job and working around the students. “Overall, the students are pretty good,” Churchill said.

There are a few students, however, who generate more than their fair share of work. That’s what the summers are for.

“Students sometimes ask me what we do during the summer,” Churchill said. “This is it. We clean.”

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