Non-teacher staff manage the ups and downs of COVID-19


Graphic by Taeyu Kim

Non-teacher staff delegate the highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walking around the school building, listening to the sound of trash cans rolling along the tile floors, seeing a gloved hand place a piece of pizza on a student’s plate and hearing a repeated beep scanning books, the non-teacher staff at the high school are hard at work.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of non-teacher staff has been greatly impacted.

The high school’s senior custodian Jim Mellett, who has been working for the town since 1988, said COVID-19 has made his job more challenging, but despite that, he loves working at the high school.

“It hasn’t been easy to deal with, because you’re dealing with 2,000 kids, 4,000 staff, not to mention family members coming and going for a lot of different things,” Mellett said.

According to Mellett, COVID-19 has created an extra burden for custodians.

“[COVID-19 has] created a lot of additional work on a daily basis around here,” Mellett said. “We actually have less people [working] now than when COVID-19 hit, which doesn’t seem to make sense, but that’s how it is.”

Assistant Director of food services Vanessa Mitsis said COVID-19 has also caused issues with the food supply.

“When it comes to work, it’s been difficult only because of what is happening behind doors when it comes to food service. Everything’s kind of backordered. It’s hard to get distributors,” Mitsis said. “We’re running out of food, so it’s fair to change the menu pretty much daily if we don’t have the products. It’s hard to manage but we are getting by.”

Librarian Shelley Mains said the library has been fortunate because they have been able to enforce social distancing, but there is also additional COVID-19 risk due to the high number of students who use the library.

“As librarians, we see a lot of kids in the library and they come and go, so if we were exposed by someone, we wouldn’t necessarily know,” Mains said.

Administrative Assistant Kelli McDermott said it was eerie to be in the high school without students during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The building was just standing still. There were still old posters and you looked in classrooms and there were just things left on desks thinking we’d be back in two weeks. It was like everybody was gone,” McDermott said. “Walking upstairs was kind of creepy because the lights were all off.”

Mains said she feels lucky to be in Brookline, since the COVID-19 pandemic is much worse in other places in the country.

“It’s just dismaying for me to see around the country, and to some extent in Brookline, that the stress and fatigue with COVID-19 can pick different people within the education system against each other,” Mains said. “If we can’t have empathy and unity, we won’t make it to the other side as successfully and be able to move on in a positive direction.”

Mellett said the high school’s COVID-19 measures required a team effort.

“I would just like to remind everyone to continue washing their hands and practice some of the measures that we’ve learned,” Mellett said. “Just try to be smart about certain things that you never would think about before.”