By Kait Schuster, Staff Writer, April 2020
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced the closure of thousands of schools in 48 states and every U.S. territory. Since our classrooms have moved from Dedham to Zoom, our physical campus is now a ghost town occupied by only essential personnel and campus residents. This unprecedented situation begs the question: what happens to all the contracted workers that helped Nobles run smoothly every day, such as the FLIK staff, some members of the Buildings and Grounds crew, the housekeeping team, and the security service?
In a virtual interview, Chief Financial and Operations Officer Steve Ginsberg said that Nobles “feels a strong responsibility to try to support all employees for as long as we can. We are doing everything we possibly can to help all employees be paid as if they were working. Many Nobles employees are able to continue their work and they are doing everything they can to support the ongoing education of our students.” This sentiment also includes the contracted workforce who provide vital services and keep our campus safe and well-maintained. The Security team, for example, is working reduced hours due to the lack of events and on-campus traffic.
Ginsberg added that Nobles is looking into supporting outside companies that the school would normally use, like FLIK, the cleaning company UG2, and Local Motion Bus Company. He noted that while most of FLIK’s costs are labor, the minimal savings from FLIK not currently working at school will be offset by the unplanned investments in technology needed to implement remote learning across the entire Nobles community.
Social distancing guidelines and Virtual Nobles have left campus bare. Director of Building and Grounds Mike McHugh said, “It is very strange to walk the campus and see it so empty, to walk the buildings and not see anyone in them.” For his crew, not having students and faculty on campus seems like a great time to complete construction, maintenance, and gardening projects. However, he said, “While there are many projects we hoped to complete, we did not want to ask people to risk their health as well as potentially [spread] COVID-19. It is so tempting to want to do all the projects that can only be done when the students are not here, but we need to follow guidelines and practice what we are preaching about social distancing.”
McHugh explained how B&G is doing so: “We are still maintaining the grounds and fields. Grass will grow even though there is a pandemic going on. I have split my crew so that we only have a few crew members each day to keep them as safe as possible. It is very easy to lose the fields to weeds and grasses so we have decided to make sure we do not lose them and ensure they are ready when we come back.”
Other projects, such as the site work around Lawrence Auditorium, have been deferred until it is safe to bring teams of workers together to complete them. It is clear that at all levels of the organization, Nobles is focused on keeping everyone safe.
If and when school will resume in-person this calendar year is anyone’s guess at this juncture. While the uncertainty of the current pandemic has brought the usual frenetic activity on campus to a screeching halt, the Nobles community is proving we can come together by being apart.