Many people have no idea what it takes to maintain a modern elementary or high school. Second to the principal in the operation of any school is the head custodian, who arrives one to two hours before anyone else to unlock gates, kitchen, cafeteria and restrooms; check the grounds and buildings; and, during the winter months, make sure there is heat in all of the classrooms.

Many schools serve breakfast and the majority of schools have at least one lunch period and some have two or even three. Custodians are needed to set up tables, chairs, recycling bins and trash barrels; be available for accidental spills; and do cleanup afterward. Drinking fountains are sanitized, restrooms are cleaned and restocked, and corridors are swept while students are in class. If a student upchucks in class, the custodian is the person to do cleanup and sanitize. Custodians need to know the safety and proper use of cleaning supplies and insecticides. After school, classroom cleaning is done efficiently in a limited amount of time. Before a custodian leaves, all rooms and gates must be checked to make sure they are locked.

The men and women who do this work are entitled to a good living wage with health and retirement benefits. It is not a job that can be done by students, as has been proposed by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Lois Watson