Barbara Dace has cleaned for more than 21 years, first as a janitor in downtown St. Louis and now as a custodian at Confluence Academy – South City. People don’t realize how hard it is cleaning a school, considering how messy kids can get. “Imagine all the gum under desks, the food, the mess – we really sterilize our schools to help kids stay safe.”
Barbara says that most people don’t understand how hard custodians work to clean schools. Her school has three floors and no elevator, meaning she has to carry heavy machines and bags of trash up and down three flights of stairs. This work has left her with carpal tunnel syndrome and is “really hard on your body.”
Despite the difficulty, Barbara says she feels appreciated by her students, who come up to her and say thank you. One even wrote her a letter thanking her for being his custodian. “I wouldn’t want my grandbabies going into an unclean school,” she says, and channels that energy into her daily work.
Barbara still heads into work to clean during the COVID-19 crisis, removing everything from classrooms to scrub them down, sanitizing chairs, tables, everything. She hopes that the COVID-19 crisis helps people understand the important roles janitors and custodians play in keeping the St. Louis region clean and healthy. “Being a custodian is 100% a hard, difficult job. But I feel like I’m doing something important, keeping these schools clean for when the kids come back.”