Code One, stat!

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You may not know what a “Code One” is, but Ronald Pope knows.

And the children at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School are glad that he does, even if they don’t necessarily always show it.

School custodians may be the most overlooked people in the educational system, but today, Custodial Workers Appreciation Day, is their day in Suffolk.

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“Sometimes, they’re the ghosts of the building,” said Crystal Whitley of Elephant’s Fork Elementary. “Their presence is definitely sensed, but we don’t always know who is responsible or thank them.”

“They are wonderful,” said Principal Talmadge Darden of King’s Fork Middle School. “You can tell that the instant you walk in this building, because it is so clean. They go above and beyond what is expected to make sure this building is in tip-top shape.”

A custodian’s day includes early mornings and late nights of cleaning toilets, scraping walls, dusting, mopping, keeping things looking and smelling clean — and the occasional Code One.

“You don’t want to know what a Code One is,” said Pope, who is custodian at Elephant’s Fork. “I was just called down to one. It’s when a child gets … sick.”

“They do a lot of things that nobody really wants to do,” Whitley said. “Nobody wants to clean toilets and throw up. We all do these things for our own families, but custodians are here take care of us.”

A custodian’s job isn’t only cleaning and picking-up after children, though.

“I try to keep people smiling around here,” Pope said. “I like doing things to keep people happy.”

He may not be in a fancy office, but “the smiles and helping encourage the children go down the right path will all be rewarding in the end,” he said.

Meanwhile, he and the city’s other school custodians will have to be satisfied with their special day.