From plumbers to bus drivers, Deerfield staff members that work behind the scenes have adapted to the pandemic’s professional impacts.
Over the summer, the physical plant conducted routine maintenance: repainting rooms and replacing carpets. However, they also had new tasks as a result of Deerfield’s new housing model that prioritized COVID-19 prevention and student health.
Facilities Operations Coordinator Amanda Dawicki said, “The volume [of work requests] were the same, but there were different types of requests that we had to adapt to.” The physical plant was in charge of the construction company that oversaw the installation of sneeze guards, created new singles in the common room, took down walls in the Kendal to create bigger spaces, and set up air filters and plexiglasses.
The school sent many custodians and housekeepers back home when students were not on campus. Shipping and Receiving Supervisor Joe Garey said he was only working two days a week, for five hours a day, when the pandemic first hit. With some extra time, Mr. Garey would go on walks and bike rides to keep himself active. He also completed a huge puzzle and built a model to keep himself busy.
Even though many worked from home with reduced hours, the school retained the same number of employees without any wage deductions. According to Keith Finan, the Associate Head of School for Operations, the school has allocated $1.26 million on added staffing from the endowment funds.
When school finally started in September, the entire physical plant staff comes to campus for work every day, since most of their jobs are hands-on, rather than working remotely. To ensure everyone’s safety, the administration has been testing the employees living off-campus twice a week.
The physical plant continues to help with setting up tents outside for dining and weekend activities. These tasks have also been more complicated than usual. “There were more layers to procedures, and we had to be fully flexible, knowing that there are a lot of last-minute changes,” Ms. Dawicki explained.
As for Mr. Garey, he ensured that all safety precautions were in place while continuing his job. The weirdest part of the job? Not being able to see the faces of students.