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The Crucial Role of School Department Maintenance and Custodians When Winter Weather Arrives

Snow outside of Carl J. Lamb Elementary school

Snow outside of Carl J. Lamb Elementary school

Photo: Sam Bonsey

By Sam Bonsey, Sanford Schools Communication Coordinator

The Sanford School Department’s maintenance and custodial teams play an important and often unnoticed role in ensuring that our schools are ready to open in the winter during stormy weather.

When the forecast predicts an impending storm, Jason Dudley, the Director of Facilities and Maintenance, contacts his maintenance team and each building’s head custodian, and provides them with any available details regarding the weather’s timeline.

Dudley said each building requires varying amounts of snow removal, and some take more time than others. Therefore, the school’s head custodian makes a plan based on the storm’s timeline.

Often, starting after midnight, when most people are sleeping, the maintenance crew consisting of Kevin Alston, Stephen Reynolds, Assistant Director Steve Brown, and Dudley begin plowing areas not covered by outside contractors around the buildings. During this time, they are also evaluating parking lots, roads, sidewalks, and power outages.

This process can take hours to complete. Around 4 a.m., Jason contacts Superintendent Matt Nelson regarding the current weather conditions and the status of our schools.

Superintendent Nelson contacts the meteorologists the district contracts with to get the most up-to-date weather forecast for Sanford. He also communicates with the Sanford Police Department, Sanford Public Works and area superintendents to assist with the decision on school operations.

The head custodians arrive at schools from 4:30 a.m. to 4:45 a.m. to shovel and snowblow areas directly around the buildings. Around this time, Superintendent Nelson communicates the decision on whether to close school for the day, implement a delay, or remain open as scheduled.

Once the decision is made, the maintenance and custodial teams continue to work. They salt and treat the sidewalks and parking lots and remove snow from parking lots to prevent refreezing.

They do this until the second-shift custodians arrive to assist with snow removal and treat walkways and entryways.

The work to maintain school buildings continues for days after a storm. The maintenance team continues to salt areas that have melted or refrozen overnight, and the custodians arrive early in the morning to treat walkways and entryways with ice melt.

Dudley said this timeline is always subject to the timing of the storm. The goal is to have school open every day. In order to achieve that, the maintenance crews, head custodians and contractors start their day hours before the decision to cancel or delay school is made. They would need more time to ensure safe walkways and parking lots for staff and students if they were to wait for a decision.

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