Schools need more custodians

Saturday, August 22, 2020
Several areas at Cascade Middle, including the kitchen and library, sustained smoke damage during the early morning electrical fire on Aug. 3. Fire investigators believe that a Coke machine may have caused the fire which obliterated the contents of a small food service room. While the gym is not yet being used, the library has reopened, according to plant maintenance officials.
T-G Photo by Terence Corrigan

From safeguarding classrooms against potential COVID-19 contamination to managing fire damage at Cascade Middle School, there’s little doubt Bedford County schools maintenance and custodial employees have literally had their hands full since Aug. 3. According to the plant supervisor, the department is really short-handed and looking for more employees.

Plant supervisor Daniel Kleindienst told school board members Tuesday how he has one custodian currently on 14-day quarantine, due to a close contact situation. He said school grounds personnel are cross-trained, so they’re helping in the interim.

“You all know this is an issue for me,” he told school board members Tuesday. “I’ve got about 12 custodian openings. We have a real need. I’m interviewing . . . anyone who can pass the background check, I’m willing to work.”

The maintenance supervisor gave a full monthly report at the Central Office. COVID-19 updates naturally topped the agenda; he advised his custodians to wear masks.

The maintenance supervisor also assured board members that he’s tracking all COVID-19 supplies purchased, in addition to any overtime needed by his department. This is particularly important to the school system right now as the state provides funds for COVID-19-related expenses.

The school system has been on the receiving end of funds and also donations lately. Kleindienst advised that Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg recently gave a donation of hand sanitizer to the school system — valued at $25,000.

To caution students and staff, maintenance has recently added, he said, social distancing signage around the 15 school buildings. Crews continue to clean the schools, based on school protocols, and with approved cleaning methods.

Smoke damage at Cascade Middle

On the status of Cascade Middle, which suffered smoke damage from an Aug. 3 concession area fire, the maintenance supervisor said a lot of work is currently being completed on site.

“Right now, they [students] can use the front end of the school; they have been since the Tuesday following the fire on Monday,” said Kleindienst. “All the cafeteria ceiling tiles have been taken down . . . duct work has been taken down.”

He said damaged tiles have also been removed from the kitchen and library — an area of the school which received smoke damage. The library, he added, is once again being used.

As for the concession area, there are issues. “We’ve had some electrical issues. We have people working on the electrical part of it. It was actually in the concession stand area; we’ve had to replace the electrical in there.”

Kleindienst told the Times-Gazette today that the school system believes the fire started in the back of a Coca Cola cooler. The school system’s insurance company and Coca Cola’s insurance representatives recently sent out “cause and origin" people to investigate the fire, he said. 

The maintenance department’s plan is for the concession area electrical work to be completed this week. An inspection is scheduled Monday and after that process, Kleindienst said the fire marshal has to come on sight for another inspection.

“When they do that, and it’s approved, they will be able to use the gym; we’re hoping that will be maybe next Wednesday or Thursday. That’s what we’re hoping for on the gym.”

The rest of the damaged area, he said, won’t be repaired for about six more weeks into the school year. He complimented the contractors, stating that the day of the fire, Tennessee Risk Management was called and they had someone on sight right away.

“They had a crew on the job by 2 o’clock that afternoon. They didn’t waste any time. They were out there today.”