Custodians make school clean, inviting

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It’s crunch time as custodians and maintenance personnel work to prepare for the first day of school in Wilson County Monday.

“The work that the custodians and maintenance do is vital because the first thing that parents and community members and students see is the cleanliness and the maintenance of the building,” said Daniel Barnes, principal at Barnes Elementary School. “If the environment is inviting and clean, then that makes folks feel welcome and feel safe and feel secure. That’s why it is so important that they do the hard work over the summer to get the floors buffed and waxed and cleaned so that it’s nice and clean when they come in.”

Laura Blue, a custodian at Barnes, has been on the job for 20 years.

“Right now we are getting ready for the students,” Blue said. “We are doing floors, and we’re scrubbing walls in bathrooms and making sure it’s clean. We are at our best to make sure this is a safe school year and make sure that our kids are OK.”

Blue, a Lucama resident, puts a little extra into her job just to get the smiles and comfort of the children so when you walk through that door, it looks welcoming and inviting.

She wants the kids to come through the door with a smile on their faces whether they want to or not, especially the little ones she calls “my little babies.”

“They come in crying and you give them some pencils, some tissues and make sure that they are OK for the day and assure them that Mommy and Daddy are coming back to pick them up,” Blue said.

“What you try to do is get on their level and make sure that they feel welcome in their schools.”

No matter what child comes through that door, she tries to keep a smile on their face.

“I love my babies,” Blue said. “Some people are like, ‘Well, it’s just a job.’ Well, not me. I love what I do.”

James Cooper, who has been custodian at the school for 19 years, feels the same way about his job.

“I look at it like it’s my house, and I like to keep it nice and neat,” Cooper said.

“I like to keep it clean on the inside, outside, around the back. I like to keep good care of my building. The (more) pride and concern you have in your building, the better you are going to maintain it. If it’s not maintained well, that just shows you how much pride and love you put into your building.”

In this last week, Cooper has been moving classrooms, setting up classrooms and getting them ready so the teachers can move in.

Cooper, who lives in Wilson, has a lot of pride in what he does keeping the floors looking shiny, keeping the walls clean and keeping the halls and classrooms well-lit.

“Right now it’s a lot of flooring, cleaning floors and waxing floors,” Cooper said.

During the summer, Cooper enjoy the quietness throughout the building, but he looks forward to the children returning to school.

“Being a father myself, after you have your quiet for a while, you kind of miss the noise a little bit and the kids greeting you in the hallways, giving you the hugs and even making your day feel better,” Cooper said.

“You do get to miss that sometimes.”

Cooper and Blue like a stress-free environment.

“We like to cut up every now and again to make the day go by,” Cooper said.

“I try to keep them going and try to make sure everyone’s OK,” Blue said. “I want to make sure the students are OK and make sure the staff is OK and make sure my coworkers are OK. I’m ready.”