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How I Handled...

Setting Up a
Summer Schedule for
Custodians and Contractors


A building principal is responsible for the whole building. While principal preparation programs pay sparse attention to facilities, we rise to the occasion and learn how to be efficient facility and trades managers as part of our regular work.

The Problem:

When the busses roll away for the last time in June, schools become a beehive of activity that will ready the facility for the return of students in the late summer or early fall. Summer (or break time for year-round schools) is the time when a building's custodians swing into full gear -- deep cleaning every room, adding touch-up paint, shining up interior and exterior windows, and generally getting down to the corners that may be missed when rooms are filled with furniture during the school year. It's also the time when districts schedule major repair projects that would disrupt classes during the year. Schedule conflicts between the regular custodial crew and itinerant construction personnel contracted to handle major projects like moving walls, installing replacement carpet, or replacing the building's HVAC system can create challenges.

The Solution:

Knowing there were several major projects lined up for our school break, I met in the spring with supervisors responsible for facilities and operations to learn about their expectations for the contractors and the timelines the contractors would be working under. My head custodian was part of that meeting; so he could gain a better understanding of the work to be done.

Once we determined the scope and sequence of the projects, we met with our custodial crew and asked for their suggestions about how to schedule the general facility cleaning they were responsible for. They helped us devise a plan for the break that had our staff working in reverse order from its routine schedule in order to enable the contractors to get a head start on the areas of the building where they would be making the most significant changes.

We then sought input from the district supervisors and from the general contractor who would be on-site with his crews. Together, we developed a schedule that accommodated everyone's needs. The contractor assumed responsibility for cleaning up any messes created by his crews once the area had been cleaned by our building custodians.

The Reflection:

Although the beehive was busy during the break, all the trades worked well together. They had been asked to help devise the solution, and they remained both flexible and on time. It's amazing what can happen when you gather the facts first, establish clear expectations for performance, and then allow those doing the job to be part of the solution.

About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled... series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Six principals comprise our problem-solving team. This team of hard-working and reflective principals remains anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day. The series also illustrates the wide range of skills today's principals are required to possess. Two members of the team are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals.