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Custodial makes the grade in academic buildings

Christine Decosta, left, (Custodial) cleans as Doris Butterfield (English as a Second Language) works in the van den Berg Hall Learning Annex.

It's 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday and classes in van den Berg Hall won't start for an hour.

Christine Decosta has already worked for an hour.

In academic buildings, the staff members must perform the majority of their duties while the students, faculty and staff use the facility.

"It's a daily balancing act," said Pat Dewitt, custodial supervisor.

Approximately 38 full-time janitors and cleaners and two part-time cleaners work in the academic buildings during the Monday through Friday day shift, which runs from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There are about 17 custodial staff on duty in the academic buildings during the night shift, 5 p.m.-1 a.m., which is supervised by Steve Perez. One employee works from 3- 11 p.m.

Decosta said it's important to develop a routine that's best for the building and its occupants.

As a janitor in an academic building, Decosta is responsible for the maintenance of the building, inside and out. She works with Maureen Costello, a cleaner in the building. Janitors are part of the management team and supervise cleaners.

One of Decosta's first responsibilities of the day is to unlock all 11 doors to van den Berg Hall and the four-floor Learning Annex. After that, she opens the annex classrooms. Next, she cleans, disinfects and stocks the bathrooms. Then, it's on to changing garbage and washing blackboards in the classrooms.

As she opens the building, she notices jobs she will have to come back and work on, like a stairway light bulb that needs to be replaced. She also makes note of bigger projects, such as shampooing carpets and waxing floors, that she plans to undertake during the winter break.

When her side of the building is ready for occupants, Decosta returns to van den Berg Hall and helps Costello with cleaning the faculty offices on the third floor.

The staff members in each building devise their way of handling the building and dividing the duties. Right now, Decosta is responsible for the four floors in the annex and Costello maintains the three floors in van den Berg Hall. Come next year, the two will switch.

When she has finished helping Costello, she returns to the annex to empty the garbage cans in the offices. Doris Butterfield, secretary for the English as a Second Language program, says hello to Decosta while going about her own work.

"We couldn't ask for anyone better. She makes a big difference in our jobs," said Butterfield.

In addition to the daily upkeep and lockup of the buildings, Dewitt said the custodial staff is also responsible for ordering supplies, which for the past two years have included many environmentally friendly or green products. The custodial staff also handles the campus's recycling.

Custodial also reports issues such as broken door handles and backed-up water fountains to the appropriate staff in the Lock Shop or Plumbing. Janitors and cleaners are also responsible for any emergencies such as spills or floods.

A number of staff are crosstrained in the academic and residential sides. In times of emergency or during special events, a custodian from the academic side may be called to work in a residence hall. In her 13 years at New Paltz, Decosta, who is also shop steward for the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), has worked in almost every building on campus, including residence halls, and often trains new employees.

Dewitt is pleased with her staff and encourages them to take pride in their work.

"We should all take part in maintaining the campus buildings where we work and study," she said.