By Elizabeth S. Leaver and Terri Frank
As they say, not all superheroes wear capes. In normal times, your school custodians are widely regarded as important and beloved members of school staff, and these times certainly aren’t normal—they’re doing more than ever.
With the exception of districts that are fully remote, school custodians right now are working hard to clean and sanitize schools, especially with expanded health and safety protocols. (And when those districts resume, these custodians too will be joining the hero ranks.)
Custodian Appreciation Day on Oct. 2 is the perfect opportunity to let your school’s custodial staff know you notice and appreciate their (pretty darn heroic) efforts.
Staff room treats
This is a fan favorite among teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week and other times, and custodians will love it, too. It’s easy to manage and can be anything you’re able to pull off, from a catered or potluck lunch to some snacks and drinks.
Coffee and doughnuts
Doughnuts always feel like a treat. Add a few boxes of coffee, and your custodians will really feel the love. (Just take care that the powdered sugar doesn’t make a mess for them to have to clean up!)
Messages from students
It’s an unusual year, of course, and asking teachers or parent groups to help collect messages or notes from students might not be possible in many districts. But you can consider asking students (or again, asking your parent group leaders for help) for videorecorded messages of appreciation and sharing them with custodial staff. (This was a big hit last spring with kids and teachers expressing mutual love and appreciation when schools abruptly closed.)
Messages from staff
Even simple expressions of thanks and appreciation go a long way. If other school staff aren’t aware of Custodian Appreciation Day, let them know—it’ll give them an opportunity to thank their custodial colleagues personally.
Gift cards are a can’t-fail way to extend some appreciation—even a card for a lunch or coffee will make them feel happy.
Other ways to help your custodial staff
While custodians deserve “their” day, there are plenty of ways throughout the year you can show them you understand the important role they play on your staff.
- Get the word out on their behalf about cleaning protocol information and reinforce your school’s safety measures. Share any updates through your parent group and other channels to help keep parents up-to-date about guidelines.
- When you know other groups are holding events or meetings on school grounds, make sure they give the custodial staff advance written notification of their schedule and needs, such as trash cans or table and chair arrangements. Tell them to leave the area at least as clean and organized as when you arrived.
- Similarly, if you know of groups wanting to start recycling or green projects at school, have them discuss with the custodian to get ideas and learn how the systems that are already in place work. When the new project is up and running, act as a liaison between the custodians and others to take care of any issues and not add extra work to a custodian’s day.
- Finally, implore others to clean up as much as possible after any events they hold at school—for example, if they move tables in the cafeteria, put them back as they were before.