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Cuesta College’s virus busters

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Custodian Jim Rash sanitizes the 3400 lab for COVID-19. Photo by Michael Costa

With a team of 21 employees, the Facilities Services Department at Cuesta College is taking every precaution necessary to protect students and faculty from being infected by the COVID-19 virus.

The pandemic that is sweeping across the nation and the world has been a top priority for the Cuesta College custodial staff, even before the school closed its campus to students on March 18, 2020. While the campus has been shut down and reverted to online classes, the college is still open for business. Currently, both students and faculty have been using the campus on a minimal level. 

For the custodial staff it is business as usual, cleaning the buildings and ensuring that facilities are clean, safe and usable for all students and staff.  Although things are a little more heightened than before, the custodians have been cleaning and sanitizing the facilities diligently regardless of COVID-19.  

“Every night what we do is go through all classrooms, all the offices, and all the surface spaces on the campus and make sure they’re clean for use and disinfected,” said Dan Troy, Vice President of Administrative Services.  “We are making sure the virus which is spreading throughout the country will not spread on the surfaces at Cuesta College.”

The school is accomplishing this by following guidance from San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office regarding how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. One message that has become clear through this crisis is that education is important.  Troy stressed the importance of Cuesta College remaining open so students could receive their education as planned as they shift to online classes.

“In difficult times, it’s been amazing to me, how the staff and students have really pulled together,” Troy said. “Our custodians have always done such a great job in terms of cleaning every night and making sure the classrooms and offices are cleaned and disinfected. But right now we know they are the front line in our defense of spreading COVID-19 on the school grounds.”

Part of Troy’s responsibilities is to oversee the custodial services, which he does with complete confidence through the help of Facilities Services Custodial Supervisor Mark Cano and his staff.  Cano, who has worked at Cuesta College for a little over a year, praises his workers for being diligent, and the school’s administration for supporting his team with whatever they need to get their job done.

What used to be a routine cleaning for custodians: vacuuming, dumping trash, and normal disinfecting, has changed since COVID-19.  Although the staff has been properly trained in the areas of disinfectants and proper use of gloves and goggles, currently with the virus the rules are changing daily or by the hour.

“Today things are different than yesterday,” Cano said. “Now we are prioritizing disinfecting every table, every desk, every door handle or anything that everyone touches. That is what we are concentrating on everyday.”  

The products currently used, including alcohol, bleach, and quaternary disinfectants, are the armor that is needed to fight the virus.  Once the proper sanitizers have been applied by the custodians and then dried, a film is left on the surface which continues to kill the virus.

“The chemicals we use can kill the virus within 12 to 24 hours after the disinfectants are applied,” Cano said. 

For the administration and all custodians, their main concern is the safety and security of the Cuesta College faculty and students. They see it as their highest priority, amid the COVID-19 scare, to make sure that all working and learning areas are safe for everyday use. That philosophy is not just applied to extreme situations, but year round. 

“It’s very important to me to make sure that the school is clean and disinfected for our students and our staff,” Cano said. “Just like for my family, I make sure they are safe.  I think that it is a high priority we are efficient.  

“The custodial staff has been wonderful,” Cano continued. “They show up every single day and they are ready to work. The staff understands that they are there to do a job and they are doing it very well.”

With classes now fully online, and a skeleton faculty staff operating the college on campus, every measure is being taken to assure that students and faculty are receiving the support they need in a safe and hygienic work environment at Cuesta College.