I’m a Cleaner at a New York City Public School. The Pandemic Has Thrown My Plans Out the Window.

I’m a local guy from the Rockaways, and my school is located in Far Rockaway, Queens. I’ve been in the system for 22 years. I like my job; some people try to put us down—they’re janitors—but I know we matter.

Over the summer, we stayed busy doing what we would normally do: deep cleaning the buildings. But we were just waiting. Every time you turned around, you heard something different. I am a very regimented and organized person, but we really couldn’t plan anything. Things would change on a dime. If I knew what was going on, I could implement a plan—then a backup plan, then a backup plan.

This is what should have been talked about and discussed when we first had the shutdown in March: When September rolls around, if it’s really, really bad, this is what we’ll do. If it’s not so bad, this is what we’ll do. You should have had a couple of plans on the table. That’s what I think, but what do I know, right? It felt rushed when they decided to reopen.

But over here at my school, I think the administration is doing a good job. I feel safe. I just go to work and home, work and home. I ride my bike, and that’s it, really. Once I’m in the house, I’m in the house. The union has made sure we have PPE and what we need. They let us know what’s approved, what’s not. It’s just reassuring.

Of the staff members still here since we reopened—the kitchen, the security—it’s kind of like being snowed in. You bond. We’re all we’ve got in terms of human contact. We talk about what we’ve heard, compare notes. But it’s just so many less students, like a ghost town. The kids are all spread out for social distancing. I hardly see anyone.

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