Opinion: SRHS students should learn to clean up after themselves

RAMPANT TRASH. Head of custodial staff Alex Escobar and another member of his team pick up trash like this after lunch for more than an hour every school day. When asked what his least favorite part of the job is, Escobar laughs and says, “that would be after lunch… it’s a lot of mess after lunch.” Santa Rosa high school students’ inability to clean up after themselves puts a strain on the hard-working members of the custodial staff. According to Escobar, our school generates enough trash to fill two dumpsters totaling 12 cubic yards of trash every single day.

Article and photo by Molly Murphey, Website editor

Each day during their lunch period, Santa Rosa High School students inundate the campus with trash. Clear plastic clamshell containers pile up on tables in the quad or on the ground, a mere foot away from the nearest trash can. Plastic forks, juice boxes, single-serving cream cheese containers, miniature hamburgers with one bite taken out of them, chip bags, orange peels, milk cartons and cereal bowls litter the fields.  

As students prepare to leave high school and enter the world, many still don’t know how to pick up after themselves or don’t seem to care that someone else must.

Head of custodial staff, Alex Escobar, arrives at 6 am to open the school’s gates and blow away leaves littering the grounds. As students fill into campus, he withdraws to the custodial office in the basement of the main building to check emails and prepare for his day. 

“Most of the students think that my job is just to clean up after them, but in reality, my job is the whole function and maintenance of the campus. If something is broken, it’s my responsibility to fix it,” Escobar said while taking a much-deserved lunch break in this office. Escobar and the six other members of the custodial staff are responsible for far more than just cleaning up students’ messes. They coordinate school events like dances, sanitize classrooms, maintain restrooms and fulfill teachers’ requests for repairs. 

When asked if he had ideas for what he could do if he weren’t spending so much time picking up trash, Escobar said, “Definitely… we have an older school, and one of the things I would love to do but don’t have time to do is painting, for example… I could also be fixing more desks.” 

Here is where the hypocrisy in our school’s trash problem lies: students find it easy to complain about an empty soap dispenser or broken faucet, but overlook the fact that every hour our custodial staff spends picking up their trash is an hour lost on more important projects. 

This year, our school cafeteria offers free food to all students. An unintended consequence of this has been increased cafeteria trash. Escobar said that changes this year have, “been a huge impact on us [the custodial staff], not just that we’re seeing more trash because of the free lunch but also because the bell schedule changed. My working hours are 6 am to 2:30 pm so I find myself struggling,” because the lunch period has been pushed later. “Most of the time I do [stay late] because I don’t like leaving a job halfway,” he added.

Next time you’re about to abandon your lunch tray on a table, think about the impact your choice has on the custodial staff, the campus and the school culture. Escobar takes pride in our school and emphasizes the importance of contributing to the community — some of our students could take a note from him. 

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