When Oak Harbor High School closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, custodians were faced with the momentous task of sanitizing every nook and cranny of a campus that was filled with hundreds of busy students, many of whom may not have been completely studious about hand-washing rules.
Vic Rikard and his fellow custodians attacked the enemy with relish. Rikard retired from the Navy 11 years ago and then got a job working for the Wildcats. After COVID-19 started spreading around the world, disinfecting and sanitizing the school became a truly life-saving effort.
“We were bleaching everything you could imagine: walls, floors and all the fixtures,” Rikard said. “If it was a surface it got bleached, sanitized and cleaned.”
The high school custodians started out with the bleach-and-water solution recommended by the Centers for Disease Control because their specialized Purell disinfectant was on a back-order.
But then the schools were soon emptied of students under Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate, which was just extended to the end of the school year.
Due to the sudden closure, the custodians didn’t have their special disinfectant; as a result, the first few days of cleaning were a little challenging, Rikard said.
“Bleach was more time-consuming because you had let it sit for five to 10 minutes and then scrub,” he said, adding that “having to breath that in for three days in a row, it burns your eyes a little.”
He said the specialized disinfectant is a fine mist that doesn’t smell or have to be scrubbed.
In a normal year, he worked in the evenings. He would arrive shortly before the last school bell rang, take out the trash for his section, clean the cafeteria and bathrooms and check for graffiti.
He was also in charge of all the sound equipment for the performances that happen on the high school stage.
Now that the school has, for the most part, been disinfected, he is not working everyday. But because faculty and administration are still using the building, there is at least one custodian working in the morning and one working in the evening.
He said anyone entering the building has to sign in, and any surface a person touches is disinfected.
The custodians also disinfect door handles, check for water leaks, take out any trash and clean the cafeteria after food service workers prepare the take-home meals distributed at Crescent Harbor Elementary, Olympic View Elementary, Broadview Elementary or select bus stops.
When he is cleaning the halls of Oak Harbor High he likes to have his headphones on and listen to music. His selection of tunes includes almost anything from classical music, hardcore metal, rap, country to Christian music.
He doesn’t dance, but he said “if I know nobody else is around, I might sing.”