#WeAreStillHereCustodians cleaning campus offices.

By Kim Lamb Gregory

When expressing our gratitude for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a group of people who often go overlooked. CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)’s custodians were among the first responders after the pandemic broke out, and have stayed vigilant day after day, month after month, sanitizing every desk, chair, restroom, classroom, office, nook and cranny on campus.

“Our custodians are doing more square footage than any other campus—about 33,000 square feet per full-time employee,” said former Director of Facilities Support Raudel Bañuelos, who retired in December. “They are so dedicated. You will never find people with a better demeanor. They are like a family here.”

Wearing protective clothing, masks and goggles, CSUCI’s 32-person custodial staff entered each building over the fall semester, cleaning and sanitizing anywhere that might have been used by the limited number of people on campus.

“They go very much unrecognized,” Bañuelos said. “Their job is repetitious and difficult and very important. They keep people healthy.”

Head custodian Danny McDougald says he and the other custodians are always aware that the virus could be somewhere in the room.

“We go in wherever they have had classes and disinfect the room,” McDougald said.We do the rooms, the restrooms—whatever anybody might have touched, we disinfect. Sometimes I do get nervous.”

The pandemic called for an even more rigorous sanitizing regimen, Bañuelos said.

“We put signs on doors and security tape that goes across door jambs,” he said. “We purchased eighty electrostatic guns. When you spray a flat surface, the sanitizer wraps around everything. You spray it and leave it. This part of the process is so important.” When the pandemic first began, California Governor Gavin Newsom—who once worked as a custodian himself as a high school student—recalled how the importance of his job was sometimes overlooked.

“I remember walking into these big fancy offices. I’d be doing my work and nobody would even bother to say hello.” Newsom said.

Shortly after the pandemic began, Newsom sent out a virtual standing ovation to the state’s custodians.

“I just want you to know your work matters,” Newsom said. “You are quite literally saving lives.”

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