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Classrooms: When it comes to maintenance, there’s no summer break

  • Qusiem Raines, custodian at Wildwood Elementary School, shampoos the carpet in a classroom July 11 at the Amherst school. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Classroom furniture sits in the main hallway at Wildwood Elementary School to allow workers to clean and maintain the rooms of the Amherst school. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • John Coty, carpenter and locksmith for the Amherst public schools, performs a heat weld on a PVC membrane patch on July 11 on the roof of Amherst Regional Middle School in order to seal off a leak over a hallway. The roof is from roughly 1994 and needs constant attention, Coty said. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Daniel Scott, a bus driver and maintenance worker, paints doors with energizing colors in the main entryway at Fort River Elementary School in Amherst, July 11. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



For the Gazette
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

AMHERST — With students still a month and a half away from heading going back to school, one would expect the hallways and campuses of Amherst’s Public Schools to be silent, peacefully and quietly awaiting the rush of energy that is the first day of school.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead of silence during a weekday visit to one of the district’s five schools earlier this month, one could hear the low hum of an industrial carpet cleaner, the clanging of metal chairs being dragged across the ground and the voices of those who work to maintain and improve on the town’s public school facilities.

One of those voices belongs to Qusiem Raines, who works as a member of the maintenance staff for Wildwood Elementary School. Raines works tirelessly to prepare the school for the upcoming year, moving the furniture from every room of the school so that he can shampoo the carpets. Across the Valley, it is busy time for people like Raines who work cleaning and repairing school facilities in anticipation of September.

Unfortunately for Raines, the air conditioning is broken at Wildwood, making the school as hot and humid as it usually is outside, if not more so.

“Lot of cleaning, lot of moving,” said Raines, his voice nearly drowned out by the three massive fans circulating air through the room, “Just got to push through.”

According to Raines, the summer is the busiest time of year, as the maintenance staff is able to do more when the school is free of students.

Despite the heat and a grueling workload, Raines does his work with a smile and a sense of pride, recognizing the importance of preparing the school.

“We got to get the school ready for the students,” Raines said.

The heat is a constant enemy for those who work maintenance jobs.

“It’s pretty brutal,” said Mark Woynar, a foreman for the Amherst Public Works Department who was fixing a storm drain in the parking lot of Amherst Regional Middle School. Woynar was overseeing his crew as they excavated the stormdrain, never straying far from his cooler of ice and water. For Woynar and his crew, summer is the busiest time of year, in which they have to maintain the school parking lots and roads.

“It’s an ongoing battle with potholes,” said Woynar.

One of the larger maintenance issues that plagues all the Amherst school building is leaky roofs. John Coty, who is a carpenter and locksmith for Amherst Public Schools, spends much of his time repairing and patching leaks in the ceilings of school buildings. Much of the patchwork done on the roof is completed during the summer to avoid disrupting the school’s environment.

According to Coty, the roofs are constantly getting leaks. “You don’t know if you have a leak until you have a leak,” he said.

Fixing leaks in the roofs is a crucial part of making the schools ready for the upcoming school year.

Not all projects are created equal though. While some fix leaks, others such as Daniel Scott, have a different mission. Scott, who drives a school bus during the morning and late afternoon and works maintenance in between, spent part of last week painting a door frame of Fort River elementary in rainbow colors. His goal was to make the school more colorful and inviting.

Scott said it is important to make things “bright and beautiful for the kids to walk into,” and while it may not be as crucial as fixing a leaky roof, it as a positive atmosphere to the school.

Scott said that the students “hated the boring blue door,” and that he decided to paint the doorway at Fort River after students responded well to it at Wildwood.

From large repair jobs to small decorative projects, the preparation for the upcoming school year is in full swing for maintenance crews.