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Grissom column: Maintaining 35 campuses quite a challenge

In my last article, I shared information about an area of the school system, School Food Service, that provides support for the effective operation of the largest employer in the county.
There are other “behind the scenes” departments that are integral parts of the school system. School System Maintenance has an impact on the physical, educational and financial aspects of our entire organization.
Just as educators are facing the challenge of preparing students for the 21st century, our maintenance employees are facing the everyday challenge of maintaining facilities that support these efforts, especially with aging buildings. Our older facilities most often face age-related issues, such as inadequate electrical systems to support the age of technology.
The Maintenance Department is responsible for the up-keep and operations of all our schools and other school system facilities. They operate the inter-school system mail operations and courier services, along with the school deliveries. All the staff members work extremely hard to provide a comfortable and safe environment in which students and staff can learn and work.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System’s maintenance staff consists of only 45 employees, including carpenters, electricians, HVAC techs, plumbers, painters, energy manager, fixed out assets manager, etc., for the management of 34 school campuses, 145 mobile classroom units, six support facilities and several storage warehouses.
These 45 employees hold more than 60 state license or certifications in their professional fields. They have a combined working experience of 619 years with the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
The maintenance program involves normal preventive maintenance to facilities, such as roof checks, boiler-chiller inspections and routine service, fuel measurements, filter change outs, painting, pesticide treatment, furniture repair, well checks, water testing, wastewater plant operations and testing, and ground maintenance. Our maintenance department incorporates a “rounds system,” in which the trade areas, such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc., are assigned to certain schools. These employees report on regularly scheduled days to conduct preventive maintenance and to work on items identified by the facility principal or director. This schedule permits each campus to be visited every five to six days and provides opportunities to troubleshoot problems and be proactive in ensuring that facilities are in proper shape. Repairs left undone can cause greater problems and expense in the future.
In addition to the regular preventive maintenance duties and the assigned “rounds” to schools, the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s Maintenance Department addresses numerous work order requests weekly. The department received 18,952 work requests from June 2006 to June 2007. Of these, 93.4 percent were turned in as completed.
From 2004 to 2007, maintenance staff also handled the opening of three new elementary schools, one high school and several large additions to existing campuses.
Another function of maintenance support is our custodial staff, which provides the day-to-day upkeep on each of our facilities. All newly hired custodians receive training before they begin their active work. A daylong training and learning session is conducted each spring for all custodial staff. Product information, cleaning procedures, equipment operations, safety and methods of operation are covered in this daylong session.
Our school system is especially proud of our Clean Schools Inspection Program. Each facility is randomly inspected two times per year by an outside professional custodial consultant and graded on several criteria. Schools which earn certain scores receive banners and monetary bonuses for their custodial staff, which are presented at their annual spring training. If a school does not meet the standard, additional training is provided. During the last Clean Schools Inspection, 35 out of 39 sites were recognized for their accomplishments.
The Maintenance Department does not receive much press or accolades, but this group of employees is absolutely essential to our students, teachers and staff. Thanks to everyone who works for our Maintenance Department for their dedication to make sure that our school system is well-maintained and functional on a daily basis.
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Dr. Judy Grissom is superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools System.

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