Chico State’s custodial service is confidently looking forward to a safe return to campus. They have been steadily cleaning an empty campus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and are excited for the warm laughter and smiles students bring.
Mike Guzzi, associate vice president of facilities and capital projects is confident about the return to full capacity.
“From a facilities and support perspective, absolutely yes,” said Guzzi when asked if it was safe to return to campus. “The majority of our team members, in general, seem very excited about the return of students and employees to campus.”
Working on an empty campus was harrowing for custodian Dale Vang, a 2009 international relations graduate since he would usually interact with students and faculty members.
“It was dreading, the days were long and all,” Vang said. “But we still had to do what we had to do to keep the campus going, keep it beautiful, so when the students come back it’ll be ready for them.”
Vang hopes that campus life will return. “I’m used to students walking around all day so it does get lonely,” he said. “I’m excited for the return of students.”
All of Chico State’s facilities have been equipped with new state-of-the-art air-filters as recommended by the Butte County Health Department to flush all of the stagnant air from inside buildings as much as possible. Guzzi said the new air filters pull a lot of outside air, so buildings always have fresh air.
There’s general support for reopening. Chico State faculty and staff have had the option to get the COVID-19 vaccine since January. With more people getting vaccinated there’s an eagerness for facilities to be full capacity again.
“Our staff is very happy about people returning,” said Randy Southall, director of facilities operations. “There’s a lot of positives about people returning, a sense of normalcy, security with jobs. You know there was some fear, about a year ago at this time. When the pandemic hit and people lost their jobs. The closer we get back to a full campus, the better.”
Faculty members have had limited access to their office since Fall 2020 in an effort to minimize the spread of germs. Custodians have been quick to clean facilities whenever faculty members make a quick office visit.
“The only time that we were gone was for the initial two months, when I think the governor, you know, sent everybody home last March, gone for a couple months,” Guzzi said.
Custodians resumed work in June 2020 so the buildings could be maintained, and routinely cleaned. All of the custodians worked during the pandemic.
About 75 full-time custodians work for Chico State. They’re currently understaffed, but none were let go because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will have enough staff by the fall,” Southall said.
Custodial services do not clean Associated Student buildings like the WREC and Bell Memorial Hall Union, but do clean student housing.
All of Chico State’s facilities are cleaned daily: offices, labs, classrooms, restrooms and common areas must be cleaned to ensure that faculty and staff can work in a germ free environment. Facilities are swept, mopped and disinfected even if no one has been inside. This prevents facilities from degrading and ensures that future students will have a facility to use.
Guzzi meets biweekly with Butte County Health Director Dannette York, Health Officer Dr. Robert Berstein, Community Health Director Monica Soderstom and Chico State’s Dr. Linda Lewis from the Public Health & Health Services Administration to ensure that Chico State follows county guidelines and reopens safely.
“Chico State has been doing a really good job of minimizing the risk and adhering to recommendations from the state health department, CDC and county guidelines,” Lewis said. “It’s hard to say what August or September will look like, but I’m confident [custodians] are minimizing the risk.”
Melvin Bui can be reached at [email protected] or @Melvinbuii on Twitter.