During these times, your school custodians are working harder than ever to clean and sanitize schools, especially with expanded health and safety protocols.

Custodian Appreciation Day on Oct. 2 is the perfect opportunity to let your school’s custodial staff know you notice and appreciate everything they do for your school—during the COVID-19 pandemic and always.

Messages from students

Sherri Andreoff, PTA president at Ellen Woodside Elementary in Pelzer, S.C., described the special way her group displayed messages from students a few years ago:

“We cut out stars and passed them out to every class. We had [students] write nice messages to the custodial staff, then we collected them. Outside of their door we decorated the wall with all the stars and had something that said something along the lines of "Thanks for making our school shine!"... they left it up the rest of the year. They loved it.”

It’s an unusual year, of course, and it might not be possible to collect messages or notes from students. But you can ask parents to record messages of appreciation and then share them with custodial staff.

Spread the word—schools thrive because of hard-working parent groups

Staff room snacks

Stocking the staff room with meals or snacks is a time-honored parent group tradition for occasions like Teacher Appreciation Week—custodians love it, too! It’s easy to pull together and can be as simple or elaborate as you have the time and budget for.

The Blue Hill Primary PTO in Wimberley, Texas, had a big hit last year with a sweet poster with candy references accompanied by a self-serve candy bar with an assortment of candy and other sweet treats.

The poster read “Dear custodians, you’re a lifesaver and an important piece of our school. You deserve a gold medal because this place would be a zoo without you. Much & many thanks with hugs for all that you do!”

“Of course the custodians loved it and enjoyed the appreciation but we always try and include everyone in the celebration by offering to all staff and teachers,” says Paige Lombardo, PTO president.

Drop-off gifts

If you’re not able to get into the school to set up snacks, a small gift that you can drop off is a safe alternative. (Just be sure to check with the principal first on the best time to come by.)

“One year we printed out keys and had teachers decorate them and then we put them on a key ring with the top key saying "You are the key to making our school sparkle’,” says Andreas. “We delivered them with some goodies.”

Other simple gifts custodians would appreciate include gift cards for coffee or lunch, or one for a car wash or car detail gift card. They’re busy cleaning the schools—it might be nice to have someone else clean their car for them.

Speaking of the principal

Your principal might not know about Custodian Appreciation Day, but she definitely knows how hard your school custodians have been working. You can put a bug in her ear about this worthy occasion and pass along some ways she can show some love, too. Our sister site TeacherLists.com has an adapted version of this article for principals and districts.

Other ways to help your custodial staff

Custodians are working hard to clean and sanitize schools, especially with expanded health and safety protocols. And with their extra workload, they’ll appreciate any help they get, whatever the time of year.

If you’re allowed to hold events or meetings on school grounds, give the custodial staff advance written notification of your schedule and your needs, such as trash cans or table and chair arrangements.

Work with custodians and the principal to help get the word out about cleaning protocol information and reinforce your school’s safety measures. Share any updates through PTO channels to help spread the news about guidelines.

If your group wants to start a recycling or green project at school, start by having a discussion with your custodian to get ideas and learn how the systems that are already in place work. When the new project is up and running, act as a liaison between the custodians and others to take care of any issues and not add extra work to a custodian’s day.

Finally, clean up as much as possible after any events you hold at school. If you move tables in the cafeteria, put them back as they were before. If custodians are required to be on duty for an evening or weekend parent group event, be sure to thank them for helping make the event successful.

Terri Frank contributed to this article.