Getting Ready for Fall

Keeping a home in tip-top shape requires diligence and hard work. Now imagine what life is life for residence hall administrators and facility personnel as they seek to prepare their buildings for a new batch of students in the fall. It's an intricate endeavor that involves the wise allocation of resources, thorough planning and scheduling around summer conferences and camps.

Year-Round Consideration

Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., operates year round and has approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students. "We have 51 residential buildings that we are responsible for maintaining, overseeing or both in order to meet the housing needs of our students," says Woody Eckels, Dartmouth's director of Residential Operations. "A number of buildings are in constant use. Scheduling maintenance work during the summer is successful because we carefully plan what needs to be done well in advance of the time we can actually allot for doing the work."

In addition to having year-round classes, Dartmouth has an extensive summer camp and conference program, which makes scheduling maintenance more challenging. Eckels says that the conference/camp season usually ends around August 20, which means that facility and maintenance personnel have approximately two to four weeks to get everything ready for the fall semester. Maintenance work done during this time includes such general work as refinishing floors and painting.

Dartmouth handles major maintenance differently because they operate all year. The college generally takes two to three buildings off line each summer following graduation exercises. Budgets for these more extensive maintenance projects, such as replacing carpet or bathroom remodels, are developed 12 months in advance, and the conference and camp staffs are informed at the same time that the building involved in the overhaul will not be available for the summer.

Because classes are in session year round, the college also takes advantage of the two- to three-week break between the fall and winter break and the eight days between the winter and spring breaks to do additional maintenance work.

Students Get to Work

The situation is much the same at the University of Memphis, Memphis, Tenn., according to Peter Groenendyk, associate director of Residential Life and Dining Services. "We plan very early. Much of what is done depends on the building's status during the summer."

Relamping, cleaning furniture, painting and refinishing floors are some of the general maintenance tasks done in the summer. Groenendyk says that the scope determines whether the work is done by the residence hall facility staff or by contractors.

One thing that you'll usually find every summer is a student painting crew to help handle this task. Student workers are hired in April and typically work 20 to 37.5 hours per week until school opens in the fall. Up to 24 students are supervised by a full-time staff person. Painting, which includes all interior halls and/or rooms, is done one residence hall at a time.

"We determine our furniture needs each year, and use the summer to switch out components as necessary," Groenendyk says. "This year, for example, we will be replacing 600 mattresses."

The final task in every residential building is to strip, wax and rebuff the floors in common areas and sleeping quarters.

The KU Story

Student workers also play a big part in summer maintenance at The University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence, Kan., according to Vince Avila, KU's associate director of Student Housing. "We hire 100 students during the summer to help with various maintenance requirements. We have 60 buildings that house both undergraduate and graduate students, so there is a lot to do. Our summers are very busy, especially when you factor in the need to work around our summer camps."

If possible, all major maintenance work, such as replacing fan coil units or other extensive efforts, are done during the summer to minimize disruption to students during the school year. Residence hall custodial staff identify painting, furniture replacement or other maintenance issues early in the year for completion during the summer. Thirty students of those hired will serve on crews with responsibility for painting rooms, dining halls, lounges and corridors that have been identified for a fresh look. The students also help with getting the HVAC units into shape, including cleaning fan coil units in many rooms.

Furniture in KU's residence halls is replaced as needed. Avila says that furniture in an entire lounge, for example, may be replaced in the summer. The University purchases approximately 300 mattresses per year, and these are replaced on a cycle basis.

The final step at KU, like many other institutions, is to strip and wax the flooring in all rooms and public areas. With that piece completed, all facilities are ready for students to come streaming through the doors.

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