Pranks, messes take toll on custodians

Early troubles stemming from devious licks TikTok challenge hit small custodial staff the hardest.


Derriq Young

Head custodian Carmen Lemus wipes down all the of the cafeteria tables as lunch ends. She has worked at Kingwood Park for 11 years and in charge of the custodial staff for the past three.

Derriq Young, Staff Writer

Red paint covered every single bathroom stall when head custodian Carmen Lemus arrived at school one morning. She had to scrub each stall for about 45 minutes, setting her back on her already long day.

“This year the students don’t help us,” Lemus said. “I don’t know what happened this year, but they made a lot of messes.”

Lemus has been a custodian at Kingwood Park for 11 years and head custodian for three. She and her staff work daily for hours to continuously maintain the school’s health standards. 

“I love this job, I like to work over here,” Lemus said. “I like to be around a lot of people.” 

However, this year’s custodial staff is shorthanded. There are only seven custodians cleaning the entire campus everyday. With 2,145 people on campus including students and staff, that leaves 1 custodian cleaning for about 306 people everyday. 

“It’s hard because I feel mad because they don’t do it to the school, they do it to us,” Lemus said. “We have to clean it up.”

Treat it like your house, if you knock something over at home you would clean it up. You couldn’t just walk away and leave a mess.

— principal Wes Solomon

Over the summer, the custodial staff cleaned the entire school from top to bottom. They moved all the furniture to clean and waxed the floors. Once the problems started around the time devious licks became a popular trend on TikTok, the custodians had to check the bathrooms hourly for soap dispensers being stolen or more — in addition to their regular duties. Lemus said her hours range from 9 to 12 hours, depending on the day.

“There are definitely the behind the scenes people that keep this thing going,” principal Wes Solomon said. “From trash to bathrooms to cleaning up the things that most people don’t even think about.” 

With COVID-19 still making an appearance in schools, custodians are doing extra work to try to keep kids safe. Lemus and her team wipe the stairwells, door handles and desks multiple times per day to keep students and staff safe and the building clean.

Frustration mounts, however, when students create unnecessary messes on top of their normal day-to-day work. While some of the destruction has lessened, Solomon said students still can do better.

“Treat it like your house, if you knock something over at home you would clean it up,” Solomon said. “You couldn’t just walk away and leave a mess.”