At CUPE 2544, we like to say “The school day begins and ends with CUPE.” And that’s true; I am the last person there at night locking up the school, just a few hours before my fellow custodians arrive in the morning to open up.

In our board, we are timed for everything we do. Because of COVID, we get extra 2.5 minutes per class to clean, and we have to do a lot in that little bit of extra time. For example, we used to wipe down desks every other day, now it’s every day. We also have to clean high-touch surfaces – door handles, light switches, things like that – several times a day.

This past winter has been tough. We had a fair amount of snow and it’s part of our job to keep the school free and clear of snow and ice. You can be pulled in different directions, like if you have to make a school walkway and entrance safe after a storm and at the same time there’s an accident inside a class.

My job was busy before the COVID pandemic, but now that custodians have all the extra duties and procedures to stop the spread of COVID in our schools, it’s become even busier. We really feel the responsibility that the health of everyone in school depends a lot on custodians and how we do our jobs. Then again, if the school closes a classroom because there’s been a report of an infection or an outbreak, it’s the custodian who goes in to do the deep clean that will make it safe again. The danger of catching COVID is always at the back of your mind.