Planning in a Pandemic: Environmental Services

Since the start of the pandemic, George School’s Environmental Services Department has overcome challenges such as product shortages and increased cleaning and sanitizing protocols. As the department’s leader, Mike Jowder, has been at the forefront of many of these new precautions keeping our community safe—and most of us have never even met him. We recently sat down with Mike to learn more about the challenges facing the department and what it was like to start a new job in the midst of it all.

Q: The Environmental Services department are really among some of the unsung heroes keeping our community safe during this time. Can you tell us some of what your department has been faced with and the hurdles you’ve all over come in the past nine months? 

One of the biggest hurdles to start was that staff who did not live on campus were not able to come to campus to work. That left just three staff members who were able to work. The other big hurdle was finding supplies, like many other businesses. Trying to find proper PPE, disinfecting wipes, thermometers, and general supplies was a real big challenge. I had to contact multiple vendors to try and find all the necessary supplies for the entire campus. Another hurdle was cleaning and disinfecting all classrooms, common areas, bathrooms, dorms, stairwells, and all the high touch areas on the entire campus. My staff had been given a lot more tasks to complete throughout the day than in a normal time.

Q: You are fairly new to George School. What has been your experience joining the community and practically jumping right in to a pandemic?

It was really tough at first. Not knowing anyone, trying to get familiar with the campus in the middle of a pandemic was a great challenge. The community at George School was very helpful and the support from others who have been on campus for a while really helped me. The overall experience so far at George School has been great and I can’t wait to see what the campus is like when we are not in a pandemic.

I am really looking forward to seeing everyone’s faces and smiles on campus. It has been tough getting to know people from the eyes up. I am also excited to see all the different activities and events that go on at the school once we are back to normal.

 Q: What have you learned during the pandemic that most surprised you? 

One big thing was how resilient my staff is. It is not easy to work with a mask on for eight hours, be given additional responsibilities, and cleaning and disinfecting multiple areas several times throughout the day.  Another thing is how quickly a virus can spread and how important it is to wear proper PPE, practice good hand hygiene, and to socially distance from others around you to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Q: What are some of the hardest obstacles you have all experienced?

Getting the right amount of all proper supplies. We weren’t sure how much of each to item to order or how quickly we would go through supplies.

 Q: Is there anything that has been implanted since the pandemic began that you think will continue in the future?  I think continuing to wear masks and social distance is a good practice that could be around for a little while and is a great way to stop the spread of other illnesses, not just Covid.

Q: If there is one thing that you want the community to know about the Environmental Services Department, what is it? 

I hope everyone knows and appreciates how hard my staff works each and every day and the dedication they have to keep the campus clean, sanitized, and safe.

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