The daily activities of the caretakers of Terrace

By Terina Papatu and J Gurney

While most confuse the two and there are a few similarities, there is a difference between custodial and janitorial staff. There’s not too much of a difference, but as a janitor, a person’s job includes mostly cleaning the building and keeping it maintained. Even though custodians do a decent amount of cleaning, they can be considered the ‘caretakers of the building’ because in addition to cleaning, custodians are also problem solvers and handymen.

The general job description of a custodian is to keep the building and grounds clean, safe and up to decent standards. The job is also physically demanding and as tiring as any other job in the school. In an eight-hour shift, head custodian Darren Sheehan works for about six to seven hours, doing easy repairs and what he calls “on-call cleaning.” 

During the summer, custodians are at the school the same amount as they are from September to June, sometimes even more than teachers. Custodians deep clean common areas like the HUB, courtyard, and gym as well as all the classrooms and offices. According to Sheehan, during the height of the pandemic, there would be one person cleaning a classroom at a time which took roughly eight hours alone.

Along with this, they keep the school running in more ways than one. Who is called when someone pukes in the classroom, or at the end of the day when there’s urine all over the bathroom floor? You wouldn’t want to clean that. Pretty sure nobody would. Who keeps the floors sparkly even after there’s paint splattered on them? When someone spills their latte in first-period science?

While there are some staff members that mind students acting, well, the way teenagers act, Sheehan believes the opposite about students at Terrace.

“Nothing bothers me too much, just kids being kids. The students are still learning how to be humans,” he said.

The difference in shifts isn’t much, the latest currently ending at midnight for night lead custodian Bryan Oakley. This wasn’t always the case, however. During his first two years as a custodian at MTHS, Sheehan said there was a graveyard shift ending at 5 a.m., so there was someone in the building 24/7. 

When dances, assemblies, sports games or any other events end, the person cleaning it often rotates depending on whoever wants to work overtime. Sometimes, day custodian Se Oh may do it. Other times the task falls on Modestus Owaezuoke, who focuses on the athletics areas like the locker rooms and gyms, as well as Oakley. 

How custodians are treated differs on where they are. For example, while one certain group of custodians may feel like they’re treated, well, as human beings, others may feel the opposite based on the group of people that are around them. No matter your position, no matter the setting, the way you treat someone shouldn’t be based on their job title, but rather on what they’re like as a person. At Terrace, the custodians are treated better than custodians at other schools might be. 

“I feel like I’m a bit more lucky with this school. Not all schools are as respectful,” Sheehan said. 

Everyone has their own favorite parts of their job. One of Sheehan’s is problem-solving and just being around the school environment. Since he walks around the school a lot during the school day, he gets to see what students are doing. For example, when he sees students that regularly skip classes, they become familiar by talking every now and then.

Something most people might not be aware of is that when the fire alarm goes off, nothing happens until the custodians find out where the problem is. If you remember the multiple fire alarms that went off in the 2021-2022 school year, custodians were always the last people in the school. They check the halls and classrooms to make sure everyone’s left, and then try to find the source of the problem. Of course, if there is really a fire, then they leave. When you think about everything they do, we all rely on custodians without realizing how much we do, and how much they do for us.