Units will clean their offices so custodians can focus on priority cleaning this academic year

Facilities planning and management (FPM) will hire as many as 71 temporary custodians to help clean and disinfect academic and administrative buildings during the 2020-21 academic year. Cleaning efforts will focus on four priorities: classrooms, restrooms, common spaces and Parks Library, so cleaning office and administrative workspaces will be left largely to the employees who work in them.

By the time fall semester begins, FPM custodians, spread between two shifts (4 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 3-11:30 p.m.), will provide enhanced, more frequent service Monday through Friday that targets the four priorities in general university buildings. That service will look like this:

  • Common areas -- including corridors, atriums, stairwells and elevators -- will be fully cleaned once a week. Frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, drinking fountains, stair rails and elevator buttons, will be cleaned and disinfected daily.
  • Restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected every day.
  • Instructional spaces -- including classrooms, auditoriums, teaching labs, open labs and seminar rooms -- will be cleaned and disinfected every day.
  • Parks Library -- high-use areas will be cleaned and disinfected two times per day.

The first additional custodians will start as early as July 14, and FPM custodial services manager Michelle Lenkaitis said the goal is to have 50 trained and in custodial rotations when fall classes start Aug. 17. Noting a steady turnover rate generally in the profession, she said she anticipates hiring will continue into the school year.

University senior leaders approved the temporary initiative and will seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As part of the same effort, the residence department will hire 17 temporary custodians to help with daily cleaning and sanitizing in residence halls and apartments.

Lenkaitis said FPM's 12 custodial teams aren't enough to provide the daily cleaning and sanitizing demanded by COVID-19 precautions.

"Our custodians are very, very proud of Iowa State, of this campus, and they want to satisfy their customers," Lenkaitis said. "With all the new cleaning requirements, particularly the separate task of disinfecting, they know some spaces won't look the same -- and they're struggling with that.

"But, alongside the temporary custodians, they'll be working hard in these priority areas, adding a layer of service to help people feel safe this school year," she said.

Occupants will clean office areas

The new cleaning specifications will consume a lot more custodial time. For example, classroom cleaning will jump from weekly to daily, and add disinfecting to cleaning. As a result, custodians will be forced to not do other cleaning responsibilities, Lenkaitis said.

From August to mid-May, custodial staff won't clean office and administrative spaces -- including offices, conference rooms, study and meetings spaces. Instead, departments need to purchase supplies and clean their spaces, including vacuuming or mopping floors. Cleaning/disinfection supplies may be purchased through central stores, and cleaning and disinfection procedures for employees are online. Employees should contact their custodian for trash bags and to coordinate use of a vacuum. Lenkaitis said each building floor will have collection point(s) for trash and recyclables. Units may submit service requests for special circumstances, for example, a large carpet spill. Custodial teams will try to catch up on floor cleaning after fall semester concludes, she said.

Temporary service reductions this month

In response to anticipated budget reductions in the new fiscal year that began July 1, FPM custodial services plans to eliminate 15 of its approximate 130 custodian positions through attrition, Lenkaitis said. These budget plans have been in development even as plans were being made for adding temporary help. With campus less occupied and in-person classroom teaching not offered this summer, and until temporary custodians are on board, FPM announced its teams will clean less frequently in general university buildings, effective July 1 through early August. This means:

  • Restrooms will be cleaned three times a week with daily spot checks.
  • Corridors will be cleaned once a week.
  • Offices will be cleaned every four weeks.