PITTSFIELD -- At each school in the Berkshires, unique teams of men and women do the dirty work to keep things clean.
Armed with mops and buckets, floor wax and rags, a mess is no match for school custodians, who are also responsible for classroom configurations, furniture care, groundskeeping, maintenance, and often more all year long.
On Thursday, a group of custodians at Williams Elementary School were preparing the building for the first day of school, Sept. 3.
"We do everything from the ceiling to the floor," said Chuck Abriel, who was working near the fifth-grade wing.
Abriel's been a custodian with Pittsfield Public Schools for 27 years and has tackled the toughest clogs, messes and stains. On Tuesday, it was duct tape marks on a concrete wall, where a poster used to hang.
Craig Jackson, who typically serves as the school's night custodian, and summer custodian Eric Falkowski joined Abriel in cleaning and stripping the wax from the floors and wiping down windows and doors. A rock and roll radio station played in the background to help keep them going.
"They literally move everything out of a classroom [in order to] clean floors, furniture, inside the vents. They do so much and we're lucky to have them," said Lisa Buchinski, principal of Williams Elementary School.
Abriel said he and the other janitors work with Buchinski, the teachers, other school staff and the students themselves to help keep the building clean and safe.
Custodians have about six weeks to get the summer cleaning job done, and often work around summer school programs and teachers' classroom preparations.
During the school year, Jackson's job is to clean up after the school day, which isn't always pretty at an elementary school.
"I have 28 toilets to clean," he said.
When working in a building with little kids, he noted there are quite a few accidents that happen each day.
"I remember seeing a kid walk out of the bathroom once and asked him if he washed his hands. He said, ‘No.' I asked him if he flushed the toilet, and he looked really nervous about it and said ‘no,' " Jackson recalled.
The custodian realized that a commercial toilet's flush is more powerful than a home toilet, which can be scary for a youngster at school.
Jackson, who has a 9-year-old daughter of his own, chuckled at the incident.
"It's tough sometimes, but I love it here. I love my job," he said.
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