Garrison students lend a hand during staffing shortage

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 1:34 PM CST
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GARRISON, N.D. (KFYR) – Staffing shortages have hit every business in every community.

Even small-town schools are having a tough time finding workers. In Garrison, there are just two custodians to clean two school buildings.

The good news: that problem led to a unique solution. Sixth graders are lending a hand and helping keep their school clean while also learning to be good role models and volunteers.

Mornings are a busy time at Bob Callies Elementary School in Garrison. There’s breakfast to eat and friends to visit. So much to do before the school day officially begins.

And for some sixth graders, there’s also cleaning to be done. Aiden Schmidt is the first to volunteer to clean up the gym in the morning.

“I’ve done all the jobs,” said Schmidt, a sixth grader at Bob Callies Elementary. “There’s wiping tables, sweeping, mopping, going after the mop so that it’s not that wet, and then sweeping with a broom.”

Schmidt is one of four sixth graders helping clean up this week. It’s an idea sparked out of necessity: there’s only one custodian at the school right now.

“We have a 15-minute window before kids are out of our gym, and it turns into a gym instead of a cafeteria. So having to clean up with one person just isn’t going to work,” explained Shelly Fuller, principal at Bob Callies Elementary.

But many hands make light work, and these sixth-grade hands work quickly and efficiently… and somehow, manage to make cleaning fun.

“It’s fun to do stuff with friends and this is fun for me because I get to help our school out,” said sixth grader Journey Folske.

“It’s just fun,” added her classmate Molly Coble.

“Sixth graders love to be in charge. And they really take ownership when you give that ownership to them,” said Fuller.

This is their last year in this building and they are determined to leave it better than they found it. They hope to inspire the underclassman to do the same.

“We want to show the smaller kids that they should do good things and they should help out with our school,” said Folske.

Because of all the things they’ve learned in their time at Bob Callies Elementary School, learning the importance of volunteering and how good it feels to make a difference, might just be the most valuable lessons learned.

Students in kindergarten through sixth grade are also encouraged to keep their classrooms and desks tidy. That makes it easier for their one custodian to clean every room after school.

The students are rewarded for their efforts. Each day, the custodian hangs a “best” banner on the door of the classroom that was left in the best condition.