School board considers bid of janitorial service

The Columbia County school board tabled discussion on a plan to outsource janitorial services in the schools.

The board is considering abandoning supervision of its custodial staff and contracting with a private company, Southern Management, of Columbus, Ga., to clean schools.

By outsourcing, the school system potentially could save more than $5 million over three years. Last school year, the school system spent about $5.1 million on its cleaning staff and supplies.

Another motivator for school officials to consider outsourcing is improving the quality of services.

Based on industry standards, the school system employs too many custodians for the quality of services they receive.

Southern Management's proposal said that it could provide the quality of cleaning service that is currently received by schools with 109 employees -- 77 fewer than are now working for the school system.

Tim Beatty, the system's maintenance and operations manager, said the custodial staff can and should do a better job.

Regardless of the board's eventual decision about outsourcing, changes will be made to how the custodial staff operates, Superintendent Charles Nagle said.

"We're going to pursue something different than what we're offering now," Nagle told the board.

Coming changes might include reducing staffers through attrition and staggering work hours so some janitors clean at night when pupils are not present.

Board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said the system might mimic the operational procedures of private firms.

"I don't think it's asking too much," she said of having fewer janitors take on a larger workload. "We've asked our teachers to do more with less. ... We've asked that of just about everyone in our school system."

Tuesday's outsourcing discussion was meant to gauge the board's interest in continuing the study, Nagle said. Board trustee Wayne Bridges asked to table the discussion until the March 8 board meeting to consider the proposal.

"We've got 186 custodial employees," Nagle said. "This is their livelihood. We want to be sure this is what we want to do."

School officials also are studying options to outsource transporting pupils to schools. Bids from private school bus firms were opened Feb. 11, but the board probably won't review those bids until March at the earliest, system Transportation Director Dewayne Porter said this month.

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