by Alaina Buckenroth
The beginning of 2020 presented challenges not only for those of us at home in quarantine, but also for those responsible for keeping the places we visit clean and Covid-free. As NCCC opened their doors back up that following Fall 2020 semester, the janitorial staff took on a whole new approach to cleaning, sanitizing, and maintaining a safe environment for returning students, teachers, and staff. For those of us wondering about the halls and sitting in classrooms, we may not pay much mind to our surrounding environment, yet it is the people around us that are making it safe for us to do our everyday activities here on campus.
In a search for those responsible for keeping us safe here at NCCC, Don Saph was immediately mentioned. As NCCC’s Director of Campus Facilities/Operations, and NCCC 1991 alumni, Saph has been well versed in the campus layout, cleaning policies, and maintenance control for years, but it all suddenly took a turn when SUNY Covid guidelines changed most of what he knew about his previously mentioned tasks.
Saph first explained that making sure everyone on the operations staff, as well as the cleaning staff, were all on the same page was top priority. He mentioned how differing opinions made it challenging to get everyone on board, though with some convincing, they all began to understand that the common goal was to just to make sure everyone was safe and healthy. He also mentioned how no one really knew what they were doing, and at that time, that was true for every school, shop, and business looking to reopen. The initial CDC guidelines were vague and hard to interpret how to implement in different environments. Groups of this many or that many allowed to gather or not, masks required here, but not there. Thankfully, SUNY issued their rules for reopening that Fall of 2020, and the operations staff was able to define their cleaning regulations from there.
During peak-covid, the entrances and exits were limited to two locations, the front and back of the Learning Commons. This enabled the staff to limit the amount of those entering the building at a time, and gave them ample time to temperature check, as well as ask each person if they had been exposed to Covid or had Covid-like symptoms. Once a student was granted permission to enter, they were given a sticker to place on their ID badge, indicating they were permitted to be on campus and did not pose a threat to anyone’s health.
As for the janitorial staff, they were supplied with all the proper PPE equipment, masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies they would need to maintain the cleanliness of the school. Saph mentioned one challenge they ran into was cleaning all the classrooms in time for the next group of students to begin their class. Some of the janitorial staff may be just finishing up in B-Building, while three classes were about to start in upstairs E-building. Trying to be all places at once was impossible, but the staff was able to quickly divide and conquer the work, making sure they prioritized the cleaning according to the schedule of classes each day.
Almost 2 years later, Saph and his team have been able to create and maintain efficiency in their cleaning habits, as they realize that this pandemic is not yet over with, and we all are still striving to practice proper Covid protocols. All cleaning precautions are still taken very seriously around the school in order to ensure the safety of all that come to campus day to day. When asked what students can do to help with keeping campus safe, Saph encouraged that all faculty, staff, and students continue to properly wear their masks over their nose, unless sitting down to eat or drink. Being thoughtful and thankful to those around us making campus a safe place to learn, relax, and hangout is a wonderful way to maintain a positive attitude around campus while we all navigate this pandemic together.