Midtown Raleigh News

Parents pitching in

She’s a stay-at-home mom by trade and a critical care nurse by training, but for three days last week, Vickie Takei took on a new role: cleaning lady.

Takei and 25 other parent volunteers hauled buckets and brooms to Durant Road Elementary School to clean up the grime and dust left after budget cuts shrank custodial services in Wake County public schools.

“The teacher’s bathrooms were pretty gnarly,” Takei said on Wednesday, leaning on her mop during a break from scrubbing a third-grade classroom. She bent to scrape at a stubborn spot of goo under a student desk.

The school’s Parent Teacher Association snapped into action last month to organize the parent cleanup project to give the school the deep clean parents and teachers say it desperately needed.

Though parents have long volunteered to answer phones and donate classroom supplies, Wake schools spokesman Greg Thomas said Tuesday that the cleanup is the only such effort he knows of in the county.

Principal Teresa Winstead suggested the innovative way for concerned parents to help the school during tough budget times.

“I compare it to spring cleaning,” Winstead said. “You hit the nooks and crannies as best you can in your regular cleaning, but there’s nothing like getting that deep clean where you move the furniture.”

The school is still cleaned daily, Winstead emphasizes. But custodial staff is stretched thin. Classrooms are vacuumed on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the rest of the week, teachers are left to themselves to keep their floors tidy. Instead of the usual flowers or gift cards this year, parents chipped in to get third-grade teacher Vickie Shaw a vacuum cleaner for her teacher appreciation present.

So between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. last Tuesday through Thursday, students from each grade level of the North Raleigh school were taken from their regular classroom to the multi-purpose room for a group lesson. Parents armed with scrubbing sponges and vacuum cleaners swooped in. With six to 10 volunteers per day, the team had an hour and 45 minutes at a time to scour the school’s 36 classrooms one by one.

“This is what I do on a daily basis, but usually it’s to my own house,” first-grade parent Emily Curran said. “But especially with the flu and stomach bugs going around, this is important to me.”

The focus was on the grimy floors in particular, Takei said. She’s itching to get back into the school and work on the dust and the cobwebs on higher shelves and the ceiling.

There’s already talk of another cleaning session, perhaps after hours or on a weekend when parents with conventional work schedules can also pitch in. The school district plans to give an industrial cleaning to the floors and carpets school-wide in May, Winstead said.

Parents say a little extra effort to help the Durant Road staff is a no-brainer. Takei fought to send her kids to Durant Road Elementary, wading through the paperwork to get her children into a program that isn’t their base school.

She praises the school’s lively, positive atmosphere and Winstead’s proactive, listening leadership approach.

Teachers say they’re grateful, and are making sure their students are, too.

“You will not believe what your classroom is looking like,” Shaw said to her group of third-graders as they lined up outside to go back to class. “And it’s up to us to keep it this way.”