Editor's Note: Longtime school custodian Jim Cox reflects on his job, empty hallways, empty classrooms and COVID-19).

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - I have worked as a custodian at Woodfern School in Hillsborough for 31 years. Our students are in kindergarten through fourth grade, so of course we are very concerned about their safety, as well as the safety of the staff.

It’s been lonely without the kids here. My colleagues and I are following our usual work hours, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. We’re doing a thorough cleaning of the building, similar to what we do over the summer. Right now, we’re doing a regular cleaning of each classroom, and then going back over it with a special cleaner that specifically says on the label that it works against COVID-19. Then we close the door and move on to the next space.

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We’re paying particular attention to the places that a kid can touch, but if you know kids, you know that they touch everything! So we’re wiping down walls, doorways, windowsills, doorknobs, the tops of desks, and much, much more.

We’ve had COVID-19 on our radar for a while. My colleagues and I have been watching the news, so we knew about this strain of coronavirus. That’s part of our jobs – to pay attention to what’s going on and how it might affect our students. We talked to our supervisor about what we needed to do and we decided to put more hand sanitizer units around the building – in hallways, outside bathrooms, next to water fountains. The kids adapted right away and started using the sanitizer stations more.

We have a good reputation and expertise in hygiene, so the township has asked for our assistance sanitizing the municipal buildings, including the courts, offices, and the library. We’re happy to help, especially since this means that some of our substitute custodians, who have not been working at this time, will be able to generate some income.

A lot of what needs to be done is common sense, but people are worried. We’re trying to do everything that we can to make sure that when the students can come back to school, they will find it a healthy, safe place to be.

In addition to being a beloved and well-respected member of the Hillsborough community, Jim Cox is the 2019-20 Somerset County ESP of the Year.