RB maintenance staff adjusts to working during pandemic


Marc Helgeson

Maintenance worker Rosa Ramos sanitizing a door handle.

Jonah Schexnayder, Staff Reporter

During the pandemic, the daily lives of Riverside-Brookfield High School employees have changed dramatically. At RBHS, other jobs beyond teachers have been affected including maintenance and cafeteria workers. Taking out a large majority of students from the building has changed where management of safety and sanitation goes, causing priorities to shift in a new way. 

While janitorial staff have focused harder on sanitation and ventilation, food services have been pushed into a smaller span of work. Although there are less students, higher risk of spread has caused the school, including the cafeteria, to be enforced to be cleaner and to encourage social distancing. 

“The building is going to look a little different when you get here – there’s signage everywhere and the classrooms, corridors and stairwells are marked and spaced to foster good social distancing practices,” building and grounds supervisor Joel Hatje said, “There’s kiosks at the entryways to take your temperature and the building’s HVAC system is all set to maximize the ventilation.”

Social distancing and sanitation has closed off certain areas where students would be close together and touching. Places such as the locker rooms and cafeteria stations are examples of this. The cafeteria is having students in a more hands-off position, where they are simply handed a pre-made lunch rather than choose from various bars and stands.

“We don’t have students in the cafeteria, so because of that, we are preparing regular meals. So we’re doing sandwiches with fruits and vegetables and bottles of water, just to get them going,” said head of RBHS food services Antonio Torres

Staff overall have been guided by the Illinois Department of Public Health to wear personal protective equipment and social distance. Some cafeteria staff have been laid off because there are less students to feed, and there will be less space needed to share. Since then, a new program is being planned to increase incentive for work and feed more students.

“In terms of the future, we’re trying to get things done to where we can start preparing hot meals for the students,” Torres said, “It’s a program we’re trying to start up through the state where we can feed anyone who is hungry up to the age of 18. So once we get that program started, we’ll be able to give students meals for breakfast and lunch that will last them the whole week.”

Since maintenance workers have finished renovating the building for safety practices, their work has been put into maintaining sanitation and ventilation. 

“I think this experience has been unique and certainly difficult for everyone,” said Hatje, “but on our end we were fortunate to be able to keep working through the lockdown and which gave us a unique opportunity to improve the facility for the students, staff and community.” 

Maintenance and cafeteria work will continue to go through their plans for the pandemic. Their daily schedule will remain the same for the duration of the first semester.