The unsung hero of the halls


Haley Luersen

Custodian Jason Moore has been devoted to keeping Highlands safe and clean over his years here, and the COVID-19 pandemic has placed more work on his shoulders.

     On a normal day, Custodian Jason Moore would wake up bright and early in order to arrive at school before the students. He would be the crossing guard for the students in the morning and again in the afternoon as students dismissed. At lunchtime, he would be on cafeteria duty, where he would help the cafeteria staff and take out the garbage when the trash cans became full. He would also clean the locker rooms, hallways, bathrooms, and classrooms when needed.

     Until everything changed.

    Moore began working for the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District about 12 years ago when he was hired as a day-time custodian for Highlands High School. However, he had not expected to be working at Highlands when he first sought out a new job.

     “I wanted a change- a new opportunity, “ remembered Moore. “Moyer had on their marquee that they were hiring, so I interviewed there and they liked me. Highlands called me soon after [I interviewed at Moyer] and I was hired.”

     Although he had expected to work at an elementary school, Moore’s job at the high school fit his plan well. He planned to make a career out of being a Highlands custodian.

     However, his routine work was abruptly plagued with a stressful first-hand experience of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

     “Being a custodian has become extremely more difficult because of COVID-19,” Moore claimed.

     Because of COVID-19, the custodians at Highlands have had to do a lot more work based on cleaning and disinfecting. When school was shut down in the spring, the janitorial staff had to deep clean the entire school- bleach the walls, lockers, and bathrooms- just to get everything sanitized from when students were in the building. 

     Over the summer, faculty and staff began prepping for the possibility of in-person school for the fall semester. In order for that to happen, the custodial staff were involved in the planning from the very beginning.

     “We were tasked with getting the school ready and making sure everything was ready for people to be back in the building,” said Moore.

     Now that students are back in school, nothing is the old routine.

     “There has been a lot of added work for the custodians and they have done an excellent job,” said Assistant Principal Jeff Schneider. “Not only are they taking care of their normal responsibilities, but they are also tackling other items. There is just a lot going on with the same amount of people.”

     Despite the heavy workload this year, the custodians have received some helping hands this year – the cafeteria staff.

     “Since there are more lunch tables to sanitize more often, the cafeteria staff and janitors help each other clean everything in between lunches,” said cafeteria staff member Jodi Luersen.

     Even with the extra help, the custodial staff’s current responsibilities do not compare to their responsibilities in the past. Their jobs have become extremely more complex, but the staff has accommodated that change very well.

     “You just become accustomed to the ebb and flow of the day now,” Moore claimed. “Everything got uprooted and changed, but you just have to go along with it until you’re comfortable.”

     While the custodians tackle much of the cleaning and sanitation this year, students have also been given the responsibility to do the same. Students have been asked to frequently wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer as well as sanitize desks and other frequently used surfaces. While this may seem small, every little act helps the custodians.

     “I think everyone is doing the best that they can do under the situation,” said Moore. “Everybody’s under stress…everyone’s life has been uprooted by this. Other places have people who refuse to follow the trends, but everybody at Highlands has banded together.”

     Despite the difficulties that COVID-19 has imposed onto Moore, he has found the good in this tricky situation.

     “I now know how adaptable I am,” said Moore. “I can adapt to a situation and modify my behavior and go with it.”

     While Moore has found a place in the Highlands community in the past 12 years, he plans to move beyond this career and pursue his passion for culinary.

     “I’ve known for years that I liked science and art, so culinary kind of allowed me to embrace both of those because it is the perfect blend of art and science,” expressed Moore. 

     Moore attends culinary classes at Cincinnati State while he’s not working. He takes pride in his aspirations, stating that he plans to finish his degree in culinary and transition into the culinary world.

     “I want to be a chef,” claimed Moore. “Preferably at my own restaurant.”

     Moore has seen and appreciated many different types of behavior throughout his years at Highlands that he will carry with him as he moves on to this next chapter in his life. It is for this reason that he has decided to work for the school for so long.

      “I’ve met people that [have] challenged me intellectually and socially,” Moore reflected. “I’ve evolved and my life has improved because of Highlands.”