Summer chores: The seasonal break doesn’t bring time off for all the school staff

Students in the Saugerties schools celebrate the end of the 2018-19 school year this week. With the beginning of summer vacation, graduation, moving-up ceremonies and no end of parties have been planned. But the district doesn’t take the summer off: There’s plenty of work to be done. 

Though no large-scale capital improvements will take place this summer, the district will be buzzing with activity, starting with routine maintenance projects in all its schools, according to deputy superintendent Lawrence Mautone and business manager Lissa Jilek.

“Obviously, there’s the routine summer maintenance work that has to be completed,” said Jilek. That undertaking requires precision scheduling and heavy lifting. “The floors get stripped and re-waxed, all the furniture gets cleaned, all the rooms get a really thorough cleaning, there’s painting that goes on,” she said. “The halls all get done, the gymnasium floors get refinished.”

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The latter activities at the high and junior high campus have to be completed before fall sports teams begin holding their tryouts and practices in mid-August.

Everything remaining in the classrooms is emptied into the halls while cleaning work is being done, and then it’s put right back in again. Jilek credited the district’s head custodian, Mike LaTourette, and his staff for making the process as fluid as possible. “It’s a routine and they know what to do,” she said. “They hit one wing at a time or one floor at a time, and then they basically move on down the hall. Every school, every classroom, every nook and cranny, gets deep-cleaned.”

Most district offices are in constant use during the summer break, but even those rooms aren’t spared a thorough cleaning, with staff being relocated to accommodate LaTourette’s crew. Numerous programs involving students will include the academic summer school in the junior high school, a BOCES-run summer school program at Cahill Elementary, the third-year English as a New Language (ENL) Academy at Cahill, and the introduction of a robotics camp at the high school.  

“We try to be as coordinated as possible,” said Jilek. “The building principal still runs the building.”

Most of the interior cleaning and maintenance in all four elementary schools are completed by mid-August, when there’s a four-day orientation program to give kindergartners a chance to get used to a new routine, said Mautone.

The district’s technology department is also busy during the summer. “[They] swap out computers, rotate out old computers in computer labs,” said Mautone. “They’re working non-stop over the summer as well. All the computers get cleaned, all the projectors get cleaned. We make sure we maintain all that equipment over the summer as well.”

The grass on all district properties has to be mowed. How much rain hits the Catskills impacts the amount of work.

The schools were closed May 15 for a superintendent’s conference day, the same day the polls were open for budget votes and school-board elections.

This year, there’s parking-lot reconstruction going on at Riccardi and Mt. Marion elementary schools. “It’s a significant amount of work at Riccardi,” Jilek said.”It’s not quite as much at Mt. Marion. I believe that’s going to start after the Fourth of July holiday.” A reconstruction project for the Mt. Marion school is due to begin soon. 

Some weather-related work is already under way at the high school because the storm that hit the area in mid-May left a mark. “Part of the pole vault pit got blown away,” said Jilek. “We had some roof damage. We’ve been addressing that with our insurance company. [Those repairs] are under way and ongoing.”

Maintenance work has been identified by the administrators of each school. “Building principals come up with a wish list they have for the summer. We have a very talented maintenance staff, and we can try and accommodate what the principals want completed,” Jilek said. “We’re lucky. We have a lot of facilities, so they’re very flexible. They are able to move from one facility to another.”

Some issues are revealed after the cleaning work is under way, as classrooms are emptied of their furniture. “It’s surprising how a lot of things come up during the summer when we have a chance to investigate and go into rooms that we aren’t ordinarily able to access so readily,” Jilek said.

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