Local school districts burdened with maintaining high COVID-19 standards at schools


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several local school districts report they are understaffed and overworked as they try to keep up with new COVID-19 cleaning protocols.

KXAN dug into the staffing levels at Central Texas school districts to find out what they are doing to stay afloat and keep campuses disinfected.

Ruben Dominguez, the Custodial Director for the Round Rock Independent School District, said he was proud of the way his staff was adapting to the increased pressures of disinfecting campuses during a pandemic. He credited the teachers for helping maintain cleanliness levels during the school day. But he also admitted the pandemic has added intense pressure to daily cleanings for his employees.

“All the districts are going through the same thing,” Dominguez said. “We’re trying to keep up with every single class and desk in the classroom. It’s impossible.”

It doesn’t help that Dominguez is short-staffed by about 20 employees. This is also common within the industry in Central Texas.

Eanes ISD and Georgetown ISD officials shared they have vacancies they are actively trying to fill. In Georgetown, the district has partnered with Goodwill to bring in more people looking for work.

Leander, Dripping Springs and Eanes ISD all said they had custodians working overtime, when needed. Hutto ISD administrators created 10 new positions in 2020 at the request of the Health and Safety Department to directly assist with new sanitizing protocols to respond to COVID-19.

Dominguez said to help prevent fatigue and burnout from his staff, the district has partnered with a third party company called GermBlast to do deep cleans. The company has already been utilized within the fall semester and will disinfect district buildings during the upcoming holidays. Dominguez said this helps eliminate added-stress on his staff so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

“It’s peace of mind for everybody,” Dominguez said. “They know that if this is too much, I can call somebody else and they can come in and take care of it.”

The Austin ISD housekeeping staff emphasizes communication and teamwork. Both supervisors and employees—a department of more than 630 people—shift schedules to constantly keep up with active cases on campus.

As of Tuesday evening, there were 13 schools listed on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard that have at least one positive case.

There is no third party company employed at AISD right now, but officials say there are enough custodians to continually alter schedules to ensure each campus is ready for students and teachers.

“It’s beautiful to see how well all of our teams jump in to say, ‘I’m ready. Where do you need me? I’m ready to go,'” said Linda Coronado, the Assistant Director of Housekeeping and Operations at AISD.

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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