When Archie Armentrout pulls up to one of the buildings in the Hilliard City School District, the grounds coordinator begins assessing the facility's appearance right away.

When Archie Armentrout pulls up to one of the buildings in the Hilliard City School District, the grounds coordinator begins assessing the facility's appearance right away.

He examines the flower beds for litter even before he reaches the building.

Once he reaches out to grab the door handle, Amentrout inspects the door and windows to make sure they are sparkling clean.

"You can tell when you walk into our buildings that they are pretty clean," he said.

Director of Business Affairs Jeff Franklin said there are other school buildings in the central Ohio area that cannot stand up against the cleanliness of the Hilliard schools.

Franklin, Armentrout, Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) Local 310 President Gary Heyder and custodians throughout the district breathed a sign of relief on Nov. 4 when they learned that the taxpayers approved an operating levy which will allow, among other things, the third shift custodial staff to maintain their jobs.

If the voters had turned down the levy, 10 custodians would have lost their jobs in January.

The janitorial work in the buildings would have still been expected to be completed, but priorities would have been reassessed.

Cleaning bathrooms, eating areas, kitchens and locker rooms and taking out the trash are always priorities, according to Armentrout.

The remaining custodians would have had to accomplish those tasks as well as everything else had the 10 positions been cut.

Washing chalkboards on a daily basis would not have happened.

The district, according to Franklin, had a plan in place to eliminate 10 third-shift custodial positions and it would have closed down the facilities in the evenings and on weekends to alleviate pressures on the staff as well as saving utility money.

Franklin worked in the district in 2002-03 when seven custodians were eliminated.

"When you have to downsize people it's not about a number," said Franklin, "there's always a face that gets attached to it. For all of us, no matter which side of the fence you are on, dealing with the faces that are involved is always very difficult."

A Reduction in Force (RIF) primarily affects the least senior positions, he said.

Heyder, a custodian for 18 years and currently working at Darby High School, said he figured it out and it would have involved everyone hired in the last two years.

"It has a domino affect," said Franklin. "Folks get satisfied with where they are and what they are doing. They may end up moving a little bit."

Some of the custodial staff, Heyder said, work third shift because of babysitting issues.

Without passage of the levy, Human Resources Director Roy Walker would have notified the employees that their jobs were cut.

"Some of those folks are our friends," said Franklin. "This is the worst economic time we've been in since I've certainly been around. And to be facing the loss of your job, whether you are in the school business or banking business or automotive business right now would be extremely scary, I think, for any of us."

More than 80 percent of the district's budget is wrapped up in salaries and benefits.

"This is my livelihood I have a huge stake in what goes on," Heyder said. "It is indicative of what's going on in the nation, and especially our state. It's not that schools are mismanaging their money, it's just that it is affecting everybody. Mainly, I think, the insurance piece is huge."

Despite the finances of the district, the buildings must remain clean.

Cleanliness is not the only objective in the buildings, according to Armentrout. He said safety is the other issue that he and the custodians have to worry about.

Ensuring that the gas is shut off, they are using proper chemicals, fire extinguishers are charged and a list of emergency numbers are in place all come before the cleanliness of the building as a new employee is brought on board.

During the winter the custodian has to make sure that the snow tracked in does not turn into a puddle of water and the floors become slippery.

With the recent Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus( MRSA) scares, Heyder said, the principals view it as a priority.

Locker rooms and athletic facilities have to been scrubbed down.

"That is one the areas that was going to be affected necessarily," he said. "That area gets cleaned on third shift. Our athletic facility is used all during the school day and after school you have your teams in there. They are not getting done until 10 p.m. The only time you can clean them is on third shift."

Heyder said custodians ensure the doors are locked and the appropriate people are coming in and out of the building, particularly after hours.

"So it's not a hang out for teenagers," he said.

The custodian, according to Heyder, is responsible for securing the building.

While other people may be the last to leave and are willing to assume the responsibility for locking the building, he said, no one takes ownership like the custodian.