Maintenance, operations key to school system When you...


February 24, 2002

Maintenance, operations key to school system

When you first mention the words "school system," people generally think in terms of students in classrooms participating in a wide array of instructional activities. That is, after all, what we are about. But what people often overlook are the many support services provided day after day that make that classroom instruction possible.

Two essential departments that provide such services are Plant Maintenance and Plant Operations. Without these two departments, it would be impossible for the school system to function.

The Maintenance Department is responsible for maintaining grounds, buildings, and equipment and for keeping them in their original condition. This includes managing and supervising all maintenance contract services, such as energy management and state-mandated inspections. This also includes scheduled and preventive maintenance of building property, service vehicles and equipment. The department's priority is to keep schools, buildings and grounds safe and in excellent working condition.

The Maintenance Department is run on an annual operating budget of approximately $4 million. It consists of 60 maintenance employees that include electricians; heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians; plumbers; carpenters; electronic technicians; and grounds keepers. They complete approximately 7,000 maintenance work orders annually and maintain over 4 million square feet of buildings and grounds. These employees are routinely called in during their off-duty hours for emergency repairs such as a water main break or utility repairs.

The goals of the Maintenance Department are to focus on school environmental issues in keeping with the safe learning/teaching environment, to provide timely and efficient maintenance of all buildings and grounds, to provide the means to save energy and approve the operating efficiency of all school facilities, and to ensure proper air quality controls throughout the school system.

Plant Operations is responsible for all activities and costs associated with keeping facilities open, comfortable and safe for use. They are the people who physically clean and sanitize buildings and make sure students and staff have heat, air-conditioning and drinking water.

Approximately 230 custodial staff make sure that students have an environment that is clean and conducive to learning. Every school, with the exception of Gateway, has a building supervisor. The number of custodial staff may vary from school to school depending on the size of the building. For example, Westminster High School has 17 custodial staff because it is the largest school in the system. ...

During the summer months, when students are not in school, Plant Operations staff are busy "deep cleaning" buildings from top to bottom, so they are in immaculate condition when students return in the fall. Their goal is to make sure schools are always clean, safe and sanitary.

Plant Operations is responsible for a wide variety of services such as receiving, storing and distribution of supplies, furniture, equipment, materials and mail. Plant Operations is also responsible for utilities such as gas, electric and sewer. Other responsibilities include water, recycling, maintaining and inspecting playground equipment, and Integrated Pest Management. Within the department is a Coordinator of School Safety who is responsible for asbestos, hazardous waste and indoor air quality.

During the winter months, inclement weather becomes a focus for both departments. Snow removal crews may be called to begin snow removal at 4 a.m. to allow sufficient time to clear parking lots in preparation for school to open. Pavements must be shoveled and boilers must be checked. Every effort is taken to make sure that the grounds and that schools are safe for students and staff. Sometimes, employees will work a regular shift and continue well into the night, depending on the severity of the storm.

The Carroll County Public School System has a statewide reputation for well-maintained facilities. Our schools consistently receive a good, very good or superior rating when they are inspected by the state. This is due to the fact that both the Maintenance Department and Plant Operations are made up of hard-working, dedicated staff that take pride in a job well done. These employees play a crucial role in the education of our children by providing clean safe, and well-maintained buildings and by making sure that school is a safe and comfortable environment day-in and day-out.

C. Scott Stone


The writer is a member of the Board of Education of Carroll County.

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