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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Summer countdown

Housekeeper Saunice Smith sweeps out an apartment in Taylor Hall.

The moment students departed campus in May, University employees began the race to get the campus ready for their return in August

Summer on a college campus. With apologies to Mr. Dickens: It is the quietest of times, it is the busiest of times.

Quiet because thousands of students have abandoned the place for other pursuits. Busiest because facilities employees scurry to build, repair and maintain when there is the least disruption, and housekeeping staff scrub, sweep and polish to get vacant rooms ready for the fall semester.

At the same time, crews constantly groom and clean the “first impression” areas of campus to make them appealing to prospective students and their families who visit during the summer.

“As a group, we understand that you only get one shot at a first impression, and our summer work is it,” said Joe Emory, campus maintenance manager. “During this time, parents and potential students are looking at our buildings and grounds, deciding on whether to trust us with their children. Without their trust, we wouldn’t be in business.”


Agustin Delgado (left) and Dwayne Mclaurin create new courtyard paths and decorative areas at Parker Residence Hall.

Secret garden

Big grassy quads, towering hardwoods, low stone walls and miles of red brick walkways combine to create Carolina’s quintessential campus look. Groundskeepers work year-round to maintain lawns and shrubbery as well as garden nooks tucked away around campus. Furnished with benches and decorated with flowers, these secluded spaces invite passersby to escape the crowd for a quiet break.

This summer, housing and grounds combined forces for a project that takes that idea a step further. The students in the Parker Community (Avery, Parker and Teague) – where there is only a small strip of front lawn between the buildings and wide stretches of asphalt – wanted a space that was more welcoming.

Burbling fountain in stoneware urn on a base of river rock at Parker Residence Hall.

Guided by their input, crews created a zen garden in the narrow, walled-in lawn behind Parker. They installed a burbling fountain in a stoneware urn on a base of river rock. Nearby is a wooden bench set on fine gravel. More river rocks line a dry stream bed behind the bench, and an artistic metal mandala hangs from the brick wall. A path of pavers and gravel leads from the residence hall to a cozy seating area. Students will be able to borrow hammocks and hang them on posts to be installed in the space, which also has picnic tables, solar umbrellas with charging ports and grills.

“This is only the first phase,” said Debbie Bousquet, facilities management coordinator. “It really is the beginning as far as Carolina Housing’s vision.” Since only students in the Parker Community and their guests can access it through Parker, Bousquet called it “the secret garden.”

Newly built pathway through the “secret garden” at Parker Residence Hall.

In less romantic terms, the garden is an “amenity,” said grounds supervisor Steve Gooch. “We’ve been aggressive in adding garden space, mostly in the drive-by areas. We’re in the business of attraction. We’re really recruiting.”

Final countdown

Immediately after spring commencement, Campus Maintenance started on a list of needed classroom repairs, covering everything from floors and ceilings to furnishings. They repaired storm, water and sewer lines, building gutters and roofs, and water damage resulting from winter weather. They got the Kessing outdoor pool ready for use and shut down the indoor Bowman Gray swimming pool for repairs. To complete these projects in addition to their regular daily assignments, they started early in the morning and staggered shifts of 100 staff across their
nine shops.

Housing Support worked on renovations of the bathrooms at Spencer residence hall and painted the interiors of the Spencer, McIver, Kenan and Koury residence halls. Other work included sheetrock and plaster repairs as well as updates to several lounges and study areas. The staff also prepared more than 170 graduate and family apartments at Baity Hill for new residents.

“We do our spring cleaning in the summer,” explained John Williams, zone manager in housekeeping services. Summer was the time for stripping and refinishing floors, power-washing exteriors, cleaning windows and dusting cobwebs from the entrances. “We have a small window to complete everything for the fall, but everybody bands together to meet the needs of the students.”

Summer camps complicated the process, since housekeepers must clean the common areas in the residence halls used by the campers throughout the summer but couldn’t do a complete clean until all the campers left. That gave them three weeks or less to do the job.

In each room, the crew had to clean the kitchen and bathroom, mop the floor and wipe down the furniture, inside and out. They also had to remove anything left behind by the campers, from a football player’s bowl ring to out-of-date yogurt in the refrigerator.

Housekeeping zone manager Martin Chavious  logged handwritten notes in a legal pad, filling its pages with neat columns of the room numbers of the five buildings his team maintained.

Housekeeping supervisors tracked progress online, but housekeeping zone manager Martin Chavious also logged handwritten notes in a legal pad, filling its pages with neat columns of the room numbers of the five buildings his team maintained. Chavious called the group of mostly temporary workers who turned around the rooms so quickly “the A team.” “I’m very fortunate to have a good staff,” he said.

“I think I did pretty good for my first summer,” said Saunice Smith, who started the job May 1. “I think we did everything at a good pace and didn’t have to rush.”

Or, as Mr. Dickens might say, “It is a far, far better job that they do than they have ever done.”