From Boilers to bears: In the shoes of a school custodian

Ask a custodian at Highland Park, and they will tell you about the legendary bears that were chased out of Battle Creek. In truth, they’ve had encounters at Highland with birds, bats, and squirrels. Against the odds, they worked to trap a bat, who nearly set off a motion sensor and triggered the police. Ask them what happens when a squirrel gets caught in the fieldhouse. Or what about the time that they helped newly hatched ducks escape the courtyard?

However, the life a custodian extends far beyond rodents and other small animals. Consider the time they spend on the roof, navigating the ventilation system. The real danger is cleaning and draining the pool. “The chemicals we use to clean the pools can be dangerous.” One custodian told me. Alongside maintaining the pool, the custodians spend time cleaning and maintaining the boilers: which has potential to be very hazardous. The boilers are hot and challenging to clean because of that.

Chasing off animals and cleaning the boilers is only a small piece in the giant operation of maintaining Highland Park. The custodians also sweep, vacuum, wipe down glass, clean the bathrooms, take out the trash, and take part in the security–only a few of the many things they do. Even with the predicaments custodians face daily, they told me that, “The staff and students at Highland Park make our job easier.”

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