Northwood custodians sweep us away

Noelle Escalante and Rita Lai

Everyday we walk through Northwood’s halls, noticing the freshly lined trash cans, cleaned bathroom stalls and perfectly managed desks, but we never seem to find the men behind the magic. Behind the scenes, there’s much more custodial work put into maintaining the campus than we see during school hours.

“I’m one of the ten members left that are still at Northwood from when we originally opened, and it’s like my home here,” head custodian Ernie Medina said.

Equipment manager Jerry Oregal discovered his place at Northwood four years ago, preferring Northwood’s professional and academically rigorous environment over other schools. For Enrique “Junior” Carrizal, Northwood was the first school he worked at as a substitute. 

“After being hired, it felt really homey so I stayed, and here I am nine years later,” Carrizal said.

Apart from the day-staff that students have most likely seen before, the night-staff, like night head custodian Javier Paniague, work from 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Their long hours essentially make Northwood like their second home, and they also try to make the atmosphere more welcoming for students.

“I try to speak with the students, get involved with their lives and help them out in any way,” Oregel said. “I see them as my little brothers and sisters, so I try to give advice for everything.”

Most of the work for Northwood students is done outside of school hours, in the early mornings and late nights. Medina works from 5:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., though some of his other colleagues stay a half-hour later. But their schedules aren’t entirely rigid, as Carrizal typically works from the morning until 11 p.m. on Fridays, far more than most jobs with eight-hour shifts. 

“The morning staff and us work as a team,” Paniague said. “In the morning they do the pressure washing, move the desks, clean windows, dust the lights and blow down compost twice a week. The night staff, after the kids leave, clean everything in every classroom. We empty the trash, clean the desks, remove the trash and clean the windows.”

Students can all do their part to be more mindful of not causing them more trouble, as the custodians maintain all facilities on school grounds, including sports equipment and plants. Stray papers flying around tutorial and cafeteria snack wrappers flung about during break are all part of the littering issue, but the mess is mainly caused during lunch. 

“Please pick up your trash at lunchtime. If you did, we would have extra time to complete other tasks, and set up different tasks for the next crew to come in,” Medina said.

The next time you see golf cart riders in navy shirts around campus, don’t forget to give a quick greeting or thank you to let them know their work doesn’t go unnoticed.