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M&O workers maintain school sites


It’s a sunny morning at Lincoln Elementary School, where Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s Mobile Maintenance Crew is hard at work. One crew member is taking down signage and pulling out screws and nails to prepare an exterior wall for a new coat of paint. The slightly weathered signs will be cleaned and touched up before being rehung.

In the multi-purpose room, Maintenance and Operations technicians are replacing light bulbs and checking the “exit” signs to ensure they are in perfect working order. Meanwhile, inside the school office and workroom, painters are putting the finishing touches on newly painted light blue walls and pulling off strips of painter's tape. 

“We had various shades of blue, but now it looks more professional with consistency in color. When people walk into our school office, it’s instantly more welcoming. It’s not just our staff, but our students and their families have also noticed,” said Principal Kristin DeMicco. 

“Within a week, our staff got to know the members of the Mobile Maintenance Crew, and they took the time to get to know us. Everyone has commented on how great everything looks, what a great job they did, and we made sure they knew how happy we were to have them at Lincoln,” she said.

A week later, at Victoria Elementary School, the Mobile Maintenance Crew is fixing the back wall of a portable classroom that faces the school’s reading and reflection space. The paint is peeling, and there are small holes. But as the day continues, those flaws disappear. “It’s like a magician came in and waved a wand,” said Principal Aaron Peralta. 

The crew also fixed an HVAC issue, replaced woodwork on a permanent portable building, painted doors and trim, reglued carpeting in multiple classrooms, and repaired playground equipment at Victoria Elementary School, all within a week.     

two students reading at Victoria

Charlotte Bergeron, a sixth-grade student at Victoria, has noticed the campus improvements. She sits on a buddy bench in the reading and reflection space with a book from the Free Little Library box installed by the PTA and points to the wall. “I like reading books back here, and It’s a lot cleaner looking now. Everything looks better,” she said. Fellow sixth-grader Delaney Whittaker nodded her head in agreement. “It’s just a nicer place to be,” she said.      

Peralta credits the Mobile Maintenance Crew for understanding the important relationship between the district and schools. “The Mobile Maintenance Crew is contributing to a positive learning environment for our students, and our staff appreciates what they do. We’re all part of a team,” he said. 

There is a constant flow of work order requests for a wide variety of repairs districtwide.  Work orders are prioritized to keep schools in good repair, which means technicians can get pulled from their assignments to respond to emergencies at other schools. With the launch of the Mobile Maintenance Crew, a small, dedicated team of technicians helps to improve efficiency and better support school needs. The team's approach is a force multiplier as it frees up other technicians while allowing the department to build stronger connections with the schools.

The crew consists of technicians with various specialties, all working together to prioritize and accomplish each site’s maintenance needs in alignment with the district’s goal to provide optimal learning environments. The Mobile Maintenance Crew, which has so far visited 15 of the district’s 33 campuses, includes four painters and four technicians, some of whom have experience with plumbing or electrical services.

In collaboration with the school principal and head custodian, the team reviews existing work orders and they walk the campus together to determine additional maintenance needs. “Sometimes, you need a fresh set of eyes to notice small things that are easy to fix but may not be seen during a busy school day,” said Maintenance and Operations Manager Tim Waller.

 Work orders are prioritized according to necessity and timing. “We look at what can be done in one week or two weeks and what will benefit the students and staff the most. Our goal is to make every school — from the students to the staff to the families — happy,” Waller said.

Though the focus is usually on more pressing needs, Waller and his crew will also take on special requests. “Painting the lobby is normally something we’ll do during the summer when there are fewer people on campus,” Waller said as he gestured at the work happening around him at Lincoln Elementary. “But since we’re here for a week, we can do that quickly. It’s not a necessity, but it makes the room look better,” he added.

In addition to replacing woodwork, painting trim and repairing concrete, the crew brings good cheer and cultivates a higher sense of school pride among staff and students. 

With more than 1.2 million square feet of buildings to maintain, the Maintenance and Operations Department works to provide facilities that support the district’s high-quality educational programs. Students spend so much time on their school campuses that maintaining clean, safe learning environments is important. 

The Mobile Maintenance Crew will continue to rotate through all school sites, providing individualized attention to every campus this school year as well as ongoing maintenance support at all campuses as needed. Waller estimates the crew will have visited every site by the end of May.

“This is our first year with the program, and we are taking notes on how we can continue to improve our service,” said Administrative Director of Maintenance and Operations Lance Bidnick.