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By Dave Lubach, Associate Editor
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The district’s goal following the $2 million in budget cuts to custodial staff was ensuring that its buildings remained clean regardless of the reductions.
Little additional training was necessary after the staffing changes. Instead, Hargraves’ team found itself training the building occupants — teachers and administration — on the new normal for the buildings.
“We had to train people on a different set of expectations,” he says. “Now, where we are not able to get the work done every night, we may do skip cleaning: We’ll do every other classroom one day, then every other classroom the next day. Skip cleaning was a change that we had to work with our people on.
“The other thing was changing the expectations of our clients, the principals and teachers. Even today, I still have people calling up and saying, ‘My room wasn’t cleaned last night,’ and I’ll say, ‘Was it cleaned the night before?’ And they’ll say yes. That’s the new expectation.”
The staff changes were implemented 16 months ago, and Hargraves says the staff and occupants have accepted the changes.
“Part of the reason for that is because our buildings still look really good,” he says. “Our workers responded positively. They stepped up their game, and I’m very proud of them.
“I think our buildings are maintained to a very high standard today. When I hear on a national basis news reports of how some school buildings are falling in disrepair, that is not happening in the Anchorage School District. We have some beautiful facilities. They’re clean, and they’re safe. They’re great places for kids to go, and we don’t have to worry about kids getting sick.
“From what I hear from other directors and things I’ve read, we’re stretching the boundaries and expectations. Our goal was to have all of our schools cleaned at about 32,500 square feet per full time equivalent (positions). That’s a big number.”
Another season of budget planning looms for Hargraves, and he says the budget-cutting experience has prepared him for an experience that likely includes more cuts.
“There was a lot of conjecture by a lot of people that the decisions we were making were not the best, and we wouldn’t have clean buildings, and what we found was that we can,” Hargraves says. “We can make tough decisions, live through it and be OK and be even stronger. In some ways, this has required us to be better. In a way, we have to be a lot tighter. Our workers have to be well-trained and well-equipped because they have to be highly productive. When you’re operating this tight, you have to be at top peak performance. Whether or not we can do that again? I don’t know. That’s a big discussion.”
Lessons in Labor: Data Helps Alaska School District Manager Make Tough Cuts
Changing Staff Expectations After Custodial Cuts in School District