Solutions Center: Maintenance/School Spending

Oct. 1, 2004
Q&A about maintenance and school spending

Q: We currently are reviewing custodial operations at some area school districts. Our schools assign the head custodian a square footage of between 4,000 and 6,000. They are responsible for this area plus other administrative duties. Then the remaining square footage is divided among the staff custodians. This results in each head custodian cleaning about 6,000 square feet and each staff cleaning about 27,000 square feet. This seems higher than other averages.

How can we determine where we stand in regards to staffing and the amount of square feet maintained per custodian? — submitted by a school district auditor at the Nevada State Auditor's Office

A:The answer can vary greatly depending on many factors within a given building. Some factors that can affect the answer include the type of facility, cleaning specifications, cleaning system being used, level of “clean” desired, level of training, geography (weather conditions) and amount of traffic.

There is no “official” number that I am aware of; it really depends on the factors mentioned above.

Over the years, I have been gathering data from various sources that relate to work loading in the cleaning industry, and I have found that the “average” custodian can clean between 2,500 and 5,000 square feet per hour. Again, this is somewhat subjective because the term “average” can take on different meanings to different people. The 2,500 to 5,000 square feet per hour assumes that you are cleaning using a “zone” or “area” cleaning system. If you are cleaning with “teams,” then the “average” custodian may be able to clean between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet per hour. — Anthony Trombetta, Director of Services, International Sanitary Supply Association, Inc. (ISSA)

Q: Do you have a current listing of school districts with the lowest spending? — submitted by a school administrator from Garland Independent School District, Texas

A: One good resource for this question is a list of per-pupil expenditures for districts of 10,000 or more students from the U.S. Census Bureau: (Table 17) The most recent data is from 2001-02.

Some of the lowest per-pupil expenditures occur in districts such as Desoto County, Miss. ($4,179), Alpine, Utah ($4,396) and Gilbert Unified, Ariz. ($4,619). Some of the highest are Newark, N.J. ($15,728), Yonkers, N.Y. ($13,901) and Hartford, Conn. ($13,764).

In your state, Texas, the per-pupil expenditures in this category range from $5,325 (Keller) to $7,759 (Harlandale).

Another method is the “Build a Table” function at the NCES Common Core of data site, This table allows you to set the parameters for district size or per-pupil expenditure. You also can look at individual districts or individual states. The data, however, is from 2000-01. — the editors

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