Teachers’ union not happy that Castle High teachers, students have to clean classrooms

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Teachers at Castle High School have been cleaning their own classrooms and taking out the trash themselves because the school has not been able to hire janitors.

We brought it to the attention of the teachers’s union, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which is not happy about it and wants it to stop.

A viewer notified us about the situation using the Report It feature on our website.

We learned that the school has not been able to get a contractor this school year to clean inside the classrooms, so teachers have had to do it themselves and, at times, even the students.

HSTA secretary-treasurer Amy Perruso said this goes against an agreement that has been in place for more than 40 years, so the school is violating the contract between the state and the teachers’s union.

“This is a violation of the contract and the contract is fairly clear, dating back to our agreement in 1973, that teachers’s primary objective, or their primary responsibility, is student learning,” she said.

The agreement says it is the Dept. of Education’s responsibility to clean the classrooms, which includes mopping, sweeping, vacuuming the floors, and emptying wastepaper baskets.

We got a copy of an email that was sent to the Castle High faculty by the vice-principal on August 9, stating that it was in the process of securing a contract with a room cleaner company. “I ask that you take out your own trash if your trash cans are getting too full,” it said. “There are custodians that clean outside the classrooms but a separate contractor cleans inside the classrooms.”

“To also be responsible for cleaning their classrooms, which is time consuming and takes them away from the focus of the students so they’re unable to work with them before and after school because they’re busy cleaning their classroom, I think that’s unfair for students and for teachers,” Perruso said.

Students said that they’ve been cleaning the classrooms also, “more or less,” said Kino Sawcheuk, “because no one wants to sit in the dirty classroom.”

After we started asking questions about this situation Wednesday, the vice-principal sent out another email to the faculty saying custodians can start cleaning inside the classrooms by sweeping and mopping and emptying the trash cans once a week.

Perruso said that’s still not acceptable because the classrooms are supposed to be cleaned every day “and it should not be done by teachers or students who are not being paid to do that work.”

The Castle High school principal and vice-principal declined our requests for interviews.

We also went to the DOE and asked for an on-camera interview. Instead, a spokesman sent us a statement saying the school has now worked out a plan and approved overtime for custodians to clean inside the classrooms. Custodians normally just clean outside.

The reason a contractor has not been hired is because two of the bidders have filed a protest.

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