Ahead of the game

TORRINGTON – Even as faculty and administrators were figuring out how to get coursework out remotely and students were finishing up their last projects and final exams online, one department at Eastern Wyoming College stayed on the job.

The Physical Plant crew – essential the maintenance arm of EWC – not only kept up with their daily duties. Being about the only people on campus let them get ahead of the game on several projects.

“The advantage of the shutdown, we were able to get done with some projects that would have been pushed back into the summer,” said Keith Jarvis, Physical Plant Director for EWC.

“Typically, we don’t start our projects until after graduation, this year on May 8,” he said. May 11 “would have been the start date for all these projects.”

Several projects will be done well ahead of schedule now, Jarvis said. Among those are a major upgrade to the fire alarm system in the Fine Arts Building – a project that will eventually include Tebbett and the EWC Activity Center in one centralized fire protection system.

A second project that’s ahead of schedule is the ongoing renovation of classrooms in the Veterinary Technician Building – one wrapped up in the soon-to-be opening of the Agriculture Technology Education Center building. Lacking a dedicated space for agronomy and other ag tech classes at EWC, many of those courses shared space in the Vet Tech building. 

But now, an asbestos abatement project completed last week in the second of two classrooms there means renovations will be completed, again, ahead of schedule.

“Normally that wouldn’t have even started until next week,” Jarvis said Thursday. “We would have been getting cabinets and things out of the room this week.”

It was actually a fairly easy abatement – there was asbestos in the glue holding the 9-inch by 9-inch floor tiles down, Jarvis said. But being able to get in when students weren’t there just made the crew’s job that much easier.

“It’s really about the demolition noise,” Jarvis said. “You can’t be doing that when you’re holding class.

“Normally, we would have been holding classes in that room all the way up to graduation,” he said. “You don’t want to be making all that noise during finals.”

There’s also routine maintenance – cleaning, carpet replacement and usually-minor repairs – in the college’s on-campus housing areas that needs to be done at the end of a semester. With students gone from the dorms in March, Jarvis and his crew are ahead in that area, too. They’re not completely done, but have more than enough rooms completed for the handful of students who returned to campus on Monday for summer session to complete hands-on coursework in welding, cosmetology and barbering courses at the college.

With the return of students comes the increased requirements for cleaning and sanitizing called for in state-issued variances allowing the college to open at all. The extra time made possible by the closure – and the timing of the events – put Jarvis and his crew in a good position there, too.

“Because all this happened when we were coming out of spring break, we’d done some deeper cleaning during spring break and everything was in good shape at that point,” he said. “Cleaning wise, we’re good.

“Really, the getting ready for students to return – because my department has been here all along, we’re prepared.”

About the only problem Jarvis has run into is stocking up on cleaning supplies. First, not knowing for sure exactly how many students would be coming back – or at first even if they would be back before the fall – meant determining how many sanitizing wipes, how much hand sanitizer, bleach and other cleaning supplies would be needed was a bit of a guessing game.

Couple that with some delays or outright shortages in sourcing supplies from his regular outlets and Jarvis has been to get inventive.

“Hand sanitizer is a big one that’s been hard to get,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get the brands I normally stocked, but I have been able to get alternative brands through alternative suppliers.”

Overall, though, the Physical Plant crew has survived the forced shutdown well, Jarvis said.

“It was easier in some ways, because nobody was around,” he said. “The work orders that would normally be coming in from the dorms just because things get broken, that sort of thing.

“That slowed that work load down so we were able to just focus on our maintenance and cleaning, stuff we’d see that needed work,” Jarvis said. “We were able to get to it, fix it and move on. That helped.”


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