Inspired by this email from Assistant Registrar Kimberly Gosse…
I would like to take a moment to praise our facilities team. They have been working tirelessly to ensure our campus is beautiful for Move-in day this weekend. In addition to this, they constantly are going above and beyond for their community.
Yesterday the new viewbooks for prospective students arrived early from the printer … all 7000 of them. My colleagues and I in the Registrar’s Office were beginning the slog of moving them all to basement storage when the facilities team came to our rescue with enthusiasm and a heavy-duty cart. Without even asking they began to load them up and physically carry them down to our storage. Every member of the team stayed until they were neatly placed away (and I’m pretty sure their work day was supposed to already be over).
Their kindness and selflessness truly exemplifies the spirit of our community. The Registrar’s Office was grateful for their help. We are so fortunate to have them on our team.
A million thanks,
… which received this response from President Bill Lahey:
This is very well said Kimberly. The efforts of the whole facilities team continue to be extraordinary. Inspirational to us all.
… and many other responses from members of the King’s community that amounted to a groundswell of appreciation. In the spirit of recognizing the facilities team, we wrote this story to highlight their hard work–every day, and especially throughout the pandemic.
One of the first things Ian Wagschal says is this:
“It’s rare that people find facilities management interesting!”
He does have a point. How buildings are maintained and renovated, whether the filters in the ventilation systems are the really high filtration ones—the MERV 13s (they are)—supervising the wiping down of surfaces is not the sort of thing that, say, a budding author in the MFA program would pitch as the basis of a good story.
But Wagschal, the director of Facilities Management at King’s, thinks it is a good story. It is the story of how King’s weathered the worst of the pandemic and was able to open its doors wide to welcome back the entire King’s community in September.
“We were better prepared than many other universities,” Wagschal says. “We are small enough and we had such a great team working this summer. The efficiency and labour utilization was off the chart. We were able to get everything done that had to be done.”
The story begins in the early days of the pandemic. While much of the campus emptied, the facilities team had to keep working to schedule cleaning and maintain the buildings. Worried that if Covid hit any member of the team it could spread to them all, they divided into two teams and split the work-week, each team working three 12-hour days.
Wagschal says, “While other people got to work from home and feel protected, the facilities staff had to come to work. They had to work in buildings with students living in them. Sometimes they had to go into those rooms. They all had to wear full PPE. It was hospital grade protection. No one ever complained. This was way before vaccinations became available.”
A key member of the facilities team is Tim Ross, Ancillary Services Manager.
Pre-Covid, along with looking after the cleaning, security and food contracts, he also ran Conference Services and co-chaired the “not very glamorous” (as he puts it) Occupational Health and Safety Committee (OH and S). Once Covid took a stranglehold on the travelling world the conference biz became moribund, freeing Ross up. The OH and S committee on the other hand picked up the slack.
“Every department at the university has a representative at the table,” Ross explains. “It was just quarterly meetings where people might bring up safety issues on campus. But Covid moved the committee to front and centre. We are now an advisory board for President Lahey, interpreting what comes from the province.”
Ian Wagschal tips his hat towards Tim Ross.
“Tim was instrumental in bringing this really disparate group together. So you’d have athletics, the chapel, someone from the library, and each person might interpret policies from the province regarding Covid differently. Some wanted more freedom than the rest of the committee might be comfortable with. And as rare as it might be, they all got along in pursuit of the common goal, a safe Covid-free campus. Tim facilitated that.”
Co-chairing the committee was only one part of what Ross figures has been the busiest time of his working life.
“I became more involved with Facilities. With the conference part gone I got a chance to put some extra love and care into the residence rooms. So I suggested to the Director of Facilities to hire more students and we’ll take care of it.”
Wagschal agreed and over this past summer King’s residences, the Bays and Alex Hall, went through a transformation.
“We patched, primed and painted, fixed anything that was broken, stripped and waxed the floors,” says Ross.
Sheldon Gouthro, the Trades Manager for Facilities was also knee deep in the renos, and a number of other fix-up jobs around the campus, such as in the gym and in the School of Journalism.
“It has been an extremely busy summer. We put new lighting in the Wardroom, we did a big Pit clean-up and painted the entire place, we completely renovated two Alex Hall common rooms. This was all stuff that needed to get done but we just never had the time to do it. Plus, with Covid there was no one around so it was a great opportunity to just get in there and do it.”
It truly was the silver lining on the black cloud of Covid. But that work wasn’t all that was done. Isolation rooms were set up, ventilation improved, plexiglass barriers installed, the pointing on the stone exteriors was repaired, the stone itself treated.
While all the work was going on, Wagschal would sometimes drop in on the students during the noon break. It was a good reminder why he and his team were working so hard to prepare the campus for the return to life and in-class learning.
“I have never been in a crew’s lunchroom where they were talking theology and playing chess,” he says. “It was very King’s.”
Buildings renovated and renewed, landscaping spruced up, everyone in agreement about Covid protocols and provincial directives—but the pandemic lingers. The Facilities team is not done with it yet.
Wagschal explains the latest job, offering kudos to facilities teammate Catherine Frawley for her work on making it happen.
“Facilities set up a Covid screening clinic just before the start of September. The screening clinic permits students, faculty and staff to have a speed-test on campus. The clinic is operated by volunteers from all parts of the campus, including President Bill Lahey and Vice-President Sarah Clift. Facilities Management has been approved by Public Health to administer the clinic, provide training, and report any positive cases.”
And so in September King’s became King’s again, maybe even better than before. Safer for sure. Sheldon Gouthro sums up how the Facilities Management team feels at the end of such a busy and productive time.
“It’s good to have students back. It’s the community. It feels good.”