Student Desk or Petri Dish?


Kim Barrett, English teacher, wipes the student desks in her classroom.

By Natalie Wanasek, Current Staff

It’s not unusual for English teacher Kim Barrett to finish the school day by reaching for a surface cleaner. In fact, Barrett provides sanitizer and Clorox wipes for her students to use if they should find the need to clean off their desk.

“It seems like the desks haven’t been cleaned much at all this year.  I know they have, it’s just very sporadic,” said Barrett.

According to the Public Health and Safety Organization, there are “as many as 2.7 million bacterial cells per square inch” on school desk surfaces. This includes bacteria such as E. coli, klebsiella pneumonia, streptococcus, and salmonella. That list sounds scary, but repeated cleaning of desks and other surfaces frequently used by students can reduce bacteria.

Making the high school a healthy learning and living environment is, first and foremost, the job of the custodial department.  However, due to reductions in custodial staff, the elimination of a third shift, and the expansion of the school over the last 20 years, the current night custodial staff has found it difficult to properly clean the entire school with the 14 staff members on hand.  They have, however, found ways to manage.

“It takes six or seven hours for setup and cleanup for sporting events.  This makes the other cleaning fall by the wayside.”
– Tony Groh, custodial supervisor

Tony Groh, the custodial second shift supervisor, said that there’s no way desks could be cleaned every night.  Groh mentioned that his staff does their best to clean the school desks once a week, using a disinfectant made specifically to clean desk surfaces.  But this regimen has proven difficult for the custodial staff during the height of the high school sports season, which, coincidentally, is also when flu season begins.

“It takes, on the whole, about six or seven hours for setup and cleanup for sporting events.  This, unfortunately, makes the other cleaning fall by the wayside,” Groh said.

Groh said he and the other supervisors have been doing their best to find new, more efficient ways to get the school in ship-shape.

“We now have one person go around and collect the garbage from all of the classrooms and take it out to the dumpster.  It helps the other custodians to focus more on the rooms they’re cleaning instead of leaving their rooms to throw out their own garbage,” Groh said.

The West Bend School District has recently issued a revision of the maintenance expectations at the high schools.

“With this new model, I hope it will help my staff complete their expected work with time to spare for extras, such as helping with the sports or filling in for absences,” Groh said.  “I hope to fully implement the model by the end of the school year.”

(Photograph by Jesse Bauer, special for The Current.)

1 Comment

Filed under School News and Features

One response to “Student Desk or Petri Dish?

  1. Cherie Dowman Zahn

    Thanks for your article….I wonder if people know how many groups of people expect help and maintenance responsibilities for their event. Our custodial crews are so helpful. A big thanks to the maintenance department.

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