It’s not really a hyperbole to say that the entire CCES faculty, staff, parent, and student population has been depending on Mark Lyons, Director of Facilities and Transportation, and his team of maintenance staff to perform their jobs flawlessly this summer. The team is largely responsible for the state of the campus when students return full-time on Monday. Just how comfortable are they as we approach Monday’s return to school for 1135 students and approximately 140 faculty and staff members? Extremely. “We’ve done everything we can,” said Lyons. “We’ve gone above and beyond.”
Among the many things they never thought they would be doing, aside from working in a mask all day in the summer heat, are installing Plexiglas barriers, removing trash can lids, and replacing toilet seats with ones that mitigate aerosol transmission. In fact, even prior to coronavirus spreading into South Carolina, and before school closing was even a conversation, they were buying and searching for necessary disinfectants and supplies. “We knew it was coming,” said Cindy Blackburn, Director of Hospitality, “and it came quick.”
Procuring product was and still is a major punch list item for this team. They spent hours scouring the internet and shopping locally. “We all individually went out shopping,” said Cory Spearman, Maintenance Technician and current parent to Gabriel ’25. “We would go on the weekends, evenings, we took our vehicles on clocked time, we did it on our own time, whatever it took,” he noted. The pandemic ushered in a new era of urgent innovation, vendors were coming out of the woodwork, and this team had the task of exploring the many gadgets and devices that made their way to market. For instance, thermal cameras that would look at students and measure their temperatures were seriously vetted. Among the prototypes that made the cut were bipolar ionization virus mitigation, installed by our HVAC vendor; nanoseptic stickers and door knob covers installed in high touch point areas to mitigate touch point spread (last 90 days); and atomizing aerial fogging sprayers for classrooms and playground areas; all of which were a huge investment for the school.
Then there was the issue of the amount of space required for students to return to a safe environment. Almost every classroom, lab, office, conference room, etc. on the 72-acre campus was measured, inside and out. More than 60% of the furniture had to come out of each classroom to allow for social distancing, and each room had to be set up according to how that particular instructor teaches. Relocating and assembly of new desks took a large portion of their time during the past couple of weeks. For instance, Primer classrooms, which were formerly all tables, had to be converted to appropriately distanced desks. Five outdoor tents for newly created outdoor classroom space, along with tables and chairs, were rented from Professional Party Rentals to encourage classes to get outside and get some fresh air, while giving the kids shade and protecting them from the elements. Along with increased use of outdoor spaces comes the added responsibility to fog those areas regularly, in between classes. Playground equipment, benches tennis courts— anything that can’t get wiped down on a regular basis— gets fogged.
With a job that requires physical presence, this frontline staff could not take their work to the relative safety of their homes. Since March, the entire progression has been like a marathon they did not have time to train for. The past few weeks, a sprint to the finish line. Often times, you will find this team on campus beginning at around 6am, leaving at 7 o’clock at night, and working feverishly in between. In the heat. With masks on.
Through it all, they have been innovative and creative problem solvers, and above all else, a team. “Every one of us had to come together and work as a team,” said Spearman. “If we had not, none of this would have been possible. There were frustrations and challenges, but once everyone came together, well, you can’t stop this team.”
Speaking of teams, the work of Danny Thomas, Chief of Security, and his security and janitorial team have also been hard at work. “Danny and his entire team worked very closely with ours,” noted Lyons. “We melded into one team and they helped us, we helped them, but it wasn’t them or us, it was we.”
Now, both teams must continue and sustain the maintenance, custodial, and cleaning regimens that have been employed. The standard is high. Since students began arriving back in small numbers on Friday, August 21st, they’ve gotten a taste of the fruits of their labor. “Seeing the kids reunite on campus this week, seeing their teachers and friends for the first time since March, it’s been phenomenal for us,” said Shawn DeBerry, Maintenance Technician and parent to Bryson ’28 and Brandon ’31. “They’re the reason we’re all here.”
“I just appreciate the attitude of everybody,” stated Lyons. “We came together. Life doesn’t stop because of COVID; we still have our pressures at home, our families, and the strain of this weird world that we’re not sure about, but that pressure didn’t divide us, it caused us to come together and we got it done.”
“It’s a beautiful place,” Blackburn chimed in.
With Thanks & Appreciation ~
Maintenance: Mark Lyons, Cindy Blackburn, Cory Spearman, Paul Tutton, and Shawn DeBerry
Security: Danny Thomas, Dean Elliott, Ann Terry, Beth Thomas, Bobby Rhodes, Danny Simmons, John Johnson, Allen Seaborn, Harold Hall, Dale Hall John Pepper, and Kim Thomas
Janitorial: Ann Terry, Lisa Green, Victor Miller, Lorraine Sams, Kim Thomas, Maxis Francisco, Yajaira Alamo, Micaela Pedro, Drake Brezeale, Jerry Burnside, and Beth Thomas