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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - A shortage of janitorial staff has left Portland's public schools looking dingy, according to the union that represents custodial workers.

Curtis Moore, a union steward and custodian at Boise-Eliot Elementary, said the shortage has meant some custodians have had to work 12 to 16-hour days to keep up with the work.

"We have what we call the red zones. We have kind of mapped out these are the areas we have to hit and have to keep clean to keep the schools safe and healthy," Moore said.

Students at Madison High School said they have noticed their building is not as clean as they'd like.

"It's those little things everywhere that makes it look dirty. It's not like super dirty. But it's like little things, all around," Mario Reyes said, a Madison junior.

According to PPS, there are currently 18 full-time custodial vacancies, and 19 part-time vacancies, and the district is actively recruiting new employees.

In the meantime, though, the custodians that are working are scrambling to keep up, with long days taking a toll on morale.

"You feel like you're just swamped with all this work, and no light at the end of the tunnel," Moore said.

But some areas not deemed critical to health and safety can be left uncleaned.

A PPS teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said students are routinely asked to clean their own classroom, vacuuming the rug, and sweeping and sometimes washing the floor.

The situation has some parents concerned.

"I'm just concerned about the environment. It should be like clean and fresh air for the students, you know?" Hanh Voqui said, whose daughter is a freshman at Lincoln.

Despite the shortage of custodians, the district said its current custodial staff is working hard to ensure all schools and buildings get regular custodial attention.

"PPS strives to create the cleanest learning and working environments for our students and employees. We must work within the budget we have, and our plan is to be fully staffed as soon as possible," Frank Leavitt PPS' Senior Manager for Facilities Services and Operations said.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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