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Burlington school janitor doing more than just sanitizing

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 8:47 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2020 at 9:38 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - To keep local schools virus-free when they reopen next week, officials say everyone will have to play a role, but a good portion of that work will fall on school custodians. That’s why a Burlington elementary school janitor plans to go above and beyond this year.

For 15 years, Susie Baxter, or “Ms. Susie,” as the kids call her, has been arriving to C.P. Smith Elementary in Burlington at 6 a.m. to prep for the day. But this year she says the vacant hallways just didn’t feel like home. “The first time I came back in after everyone left, I was walking down the hall and I was like, ’oooh it’s too quiet in here,’” said Baxter.

She says the echos in the empty halls left her missing the students she has come to know as friends. But now, as school gets closer, Ms. Susie is willing to do anything it takes to not only bring them back, but keep them there. “It’s going to take a little bit more to clean up after them, but that’s okay because I am ready to do that,” said Baxter.

She takes it upon herself to do more than just sanitize. In her rounds through the halls, she knows she is another set of ears for the kids to find solace in. She learns every student’s name to create a relationship and to earn trust. “If you identify with them and call them by their name, they are more apt to talk to you,” said Baxter.

She says trust she builds will also keep the students safe, and that her role is more than just keeping things clean. She plans to be out in the halls like usual, showing the students she is cleaning and offering to teach them the value of keeping everyone healthy. “Kids are like parrots, they like to repeat things. So, if you do it often enough, they are going to pick up on it and they are going to do it. But that’s what it’s going to take is to actually see it and to do it,” said Baxter.

And no matter what the school year brings, be it rain, snow, or sun, Ms. Susie, will be in the halls, enjoying every minute of her time. “This year it’s going to be a little more challenging, probably a little longer than it’s at first, but once you get into a routine it’ll be fine,” said Baxter.

Although she has been with C.P. Smith for 15 years, she has been a custodian in the Burlington District for 25, having spent time at the middle and high school levels. She says as long as she can get out of bed in the morning, she will be at the school.

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