Getting RHAM ready for the new school year

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Aug. 20, 2013
Mike Schlehofer, a daytime maintenance tech at RHAM, works on the ballast of one
Mike Schlehofer, a daytime maintenance tech at RHAM, works on the ballast of one of the light fixtures in the school library on Aug. 18. Photos by Melanie Savage.

RHAM Director of Facilities Mike Ceresa was a busy man on Aug. 19. The phone rang. An appliance repairman asked for his signature on an invoice and directions to the location of the next repair. Superintendent of Schools Bob Siminski poked his head in the door to ask for a meeting. With just nine days to go until the first day of school, “It’s pretty crazy around here,” said Ceresa.

RHAM Middle/High School encompasses approximately 390,000 square feet of building space, with two maintenance men, one groundskeeper, one daytime custodian and 12 evening custodians working to keep the building and surrounding grounds in tip-top shape year-round. Preparation for the new year begins pretty much right after school ends the year before, according to Ceresa, and continues all summer long. “We run right to the last minute,” he said.

Among the first orders of summer business is to clean out and disinfect all lockers. Left-behind belongings are retained for a time, and then donated to charity if not retrieved by their owners. “Then someone has to go through and change locker combinations,” said Ceresa.

Scheduling of classroom cleanings must be worked out around summer school classes, community plays and other activities. “We remove the furniture and clean the room from floor to ceiling,” said Ceresa. Floors on the second level receive four coats of wax. Five coats are applied on the first floor. “The first floor takes more wear and tear than the second,” explained Ceresa.

Windows are cleaned building-wide. HVAC components are cleaned. “And in between, the bathrooms are getting a cleaning and disinfecting,” said Ceresa. Gym floors receive a light sanding and a couple of coats of an environmentally-friendly polyurethane. Ceresa said that the building switched over to all green cleaning materials three or four years ago.

Each classroom receives a maintenance room review annually over the summer. Teachers fill out forms requesting repairs, “But then we also do our own survey of the room,” said Ceresa. Items such as furniture, light bulbs, outlets, ballasts and switches are all checked.
Touchup painting is done where needed. Handrails receive a fresh coat of paint.

Yearly inspections such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinklers and science and kitchen hoods are also scheduled for over the summer, whenever possible. Interior and exterior doors are checked for proper latching. The generator is serviced and tested. The elevators and boilers are serviced and tested. “The list goes on and on,” said Ceresa.

An issue that arose this summer at RHAM was the maintenance of the athletic fields. With only one groundskeeper, Ceresa said that it’s very difficult to keep up with anything beyond routine mowing and maintenance. Adding to the problem is a state ban on the use of pesticides at elementary schools and middle schools. Because of the ban, weed control is confined to hand-picking, rototilling and other mechanical methods. “At minimum, the grounds are a three-guy job,” said Ceresa. “And you’re still not going to keep up with the weeds.”

A group of local parents has recently begun a campaign to improve the condition of the fields. There was a volunteer effort recently to remove weeds and brush and perform other maintenance activities. But without additional manpower, or a change in state law, Ceresa doesn’t know how his one groundskeeper will manage to maintain the improvements. “So it’s caused us a tremendous amount of problems,” he said.

The first day of school at RHAM (Regional District 8) is Aug. 28.

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