Paulding school board gave its OK Tuesday to its superintendent to begin negotiating with a Tennessee company to join in a public-private “hybrid” system of cleaning the school district’s buildings beginning July 1.

The company’s workers would join with about 55 new school district custodians under a “hybrid” plan for cleaning and maintaining the district’s 36 school buildings and administrative and support buildings.

The board voted to approve Superintendent Brian Otott’s recommendation to allow him to negotiate with Southern Management System LLC of Nashville, Tennessee, for a one-year contract beginning July 1 with an option to renew for an additional three years “with proven quality, performance and price.”

He said he planned to meet with district principals before having a contract ready for board members’ approval May 28.

Chief Financial Officer Steve Barnette said the total cost will be about $6.8 million in the 2020 budget year, up from about $6.6 million the district spends annually to contract with Aramark.

The average annual cost for four years will be $6.9 million, he said.

The school district will hire about 55 custodians who will work during the school day while the private company’s employees will work during nighttime hours, Otott said.

The company will decide the number of employees it needs to provide the level of service the district is seeking, Barnette said.

“Our focus will be on the quality of their service,” he said.

Otott said new employees in the plan include two lead custodians who each would supervise half the school buildings in the district.

A total of 36 facility lead custodians will be hired with each assigned to a school plus the district’s Wright Innovation Center and New Hope facilities, he said.

Five school district “day porters” will be assigned to work in schools within each high school feeder pattern. About 14 “day porters” will be assigned to assist the facility lead custodians at the schools with the largest enrollments, Otott said.

The two custodial lead employees would supervise and train the other district custodians and support the facility lead custodians, Otott said.

They also would deliver supplies as needed; make sure district-owned cleaning equipment is maintained and repaired; and report any “deficiencies” the private company’s custodians leave after cleaning school buildings at night, he said.

Such supply, repair and reporting responsibilities would address school board members’ complaints in recent years about Aramark.

The board voted in April 2015 to eliminate its custodian positions and hire a private company, Aramark, to clean Paulding’s school district administrative buildings and 34 schools.

At the time, district officials said it saw enough savings from the change in such areas as employee benefits to hire additional teachers.

However, board support for the company steadily eroded amid numerous complaints about alleged unsatisfactory work by Aramark — from dirty bathrooms to lack of equipment maintenance.

The school district issued a Request for Proposals for custodial services in March on the district’s website, in the Georgia Procurement Registry and in the front lobby of the Central Office, according to information from the district.

It stated five proposals were received by an April 15 deadline, and a committee evaluated them before recommending Southern Management System.

Otott said the “hybrid” plan would give each school at least one facility lead custodian who is a school district employee working daily during school hours.

“They’re going to be the life blood of the school during the day,” Otott said.

Their duties will include supporting the principal and staff in maintaining the building; and performing needed tasks like making sure bathrooms and clean and supplied, he said.

However, each school’s Nutrition Department workers would be responsible for cleaning the cafeteria rather than custodians during the school day, Otott said.

He said he also was asking the board to approve $250,000 for new cleaning equipment in the 2020 budget.

Otott said he wanted to thank the current custodians, who are Aramark employees, for their service to the school district. Its contract with the company ends June 30.

The school district later this month planned to use its website to take applications for its open positions and provide a space for the chosen company to offer applications, Otott said.

It also planned a job fair for custodial positions June 10 at the Wright Innovation Center, he said.

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