A Day in the (New) Life of Packer’s Maintenance Staff
As we spend our days in Zoom classes, constantly asking ourselves how it’s already time for another meal, we might fail to think about what’s going on in the building that used to welcome us each morning. Although our voices aren’t echoing down its hallways and we aren’t waiting in long lines for mac and cheese from its cafeteria, Packer isn’t completely empty.
Members of the maintenance staff are continuing to go in on a rotating basis—most are there from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for about one week of every month—to ensure that all of the critical systems are functioning properly and that teachers and students have what they need for their classes.
Craig Kennedy, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, usually spends his mornings at the front desk, occasionally collecting supplies that teachers need for online classes. His afternoons generally consist of preventative maintenance, which, he explained, is important for such an old building.
“As weird as it sounds, I miss the place when I’m not there,” he said. “I’ve been at Packer for over 20 years. The building is like an old friend.”
Director of Facilities Jimmy Dolan’s days look a bit different. He mostly monitors the critical systems—heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—and makes rounds of the entire campus to ensure that there are no issues. He also mentioned that there are several Life Safety systems, like fire alarms, fire sprinklers, and kitchen fire suppression systems, that require frequent inspections.
For Raoul Brown, Copy Center Coordinator and a member of the Maintenance Team, the shift caused by Packer’s closure was incredibly abrupt.
“The beginning of my first week back was really intense,” he said. “I had been away from Packer for the entire month of March on paternity leave, so I came back to a completely different world.”
It’s strange to imagine walking through Packer’s halls and being met with utter silence.
“I have been here for over 40 years and don’t remember it ever being this quiet for so long,” said Mr. Dolan.
And as we all know, this surreal sense of isolation persists all throughout the city.
“I sat on Packer’s steps and ate lunch the other day and I’d say 4-5 people passed by in the 30 or so minutes I was out there,” said Mr. Kennedy. “It’s like a ghost town. I’ve worked at Packer through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy but this is so different. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a quiet in the air that I’ve never felt in the city.”
Most of us assume that quarantine is affecting us all in similar ways, but those who are continuing to go to work certainly have a different experience from those of us who are staying home. When Jordyn Pierre-Raphael (‘20) found out that members of Packer’s maintenance staff were still working, she was shocked.
“I guess I just assumed that when the administration said we wouldn’t be coming back to Packer’s building, it meant staff wouldn’t be coming back either,” she said. “It plays into the whole idea that this virus really affects the working people, and I think not many people realize this until they see the people in their community having to risk their safety to come into Packer.”
Jordyn makes a good point—as we learn more about the effects of COVID-19, we can see that members of the working class are more at risk of dying or becoming seriously ill from the virus. There are obvious health and safety concerns that arise when one is continuing to commute to work in this era. The school has supplied every staff member with gloves and masks and they are taking every precaution to keep themselves and their families safe, but it’s still questionable for them to have to put their lives on the line while we hunker down behind closed doors. This is not by any means an adequate discussion of the issue, but it’s important to consider how we may be faring differently in these times of uncertainty.
We can only hope that we’ll be returning to normality soon enough. And in the meantime, we should remember to be thankful for the people that are working to make sure our beloved school is ready for us to repopulate it when the time comes.