A private company which has cleaned Paulding’s school buildings since 2015 will stay on the job three months longer than expected.
County school board members Tuesday, May 28, agreed with Superintendent Brian Otott’s recommendation and voted to extend Aramark’s custodial contract beyond its original June 30 ending date to Sept. 20, 2019.
The action will give both the school district and Aramark's replacement, Southern Management System LLC of Nashville, Tennessee, time to adjust to a planned public-private “hybrid” custodian system, Otott said.
He said the adjustment period will allow the new company time to hire new employees, as well as “allowing SMS to analyze our schools, walk through them individually, identify areas they need to address as they transition.”
“The biggest piece is to allow for a smooth summer transition,” Otott said.
“Summer is our time to really get out in our schools to do maximum cleaning,” he said. “This will allow us to do that and complete that process through the summer.”
The board voted in 2015 to eliminate its custodian positions and hire Aramark ito clean the district’s administrative buildings and 34 schools.
At the time, officials said the district saw enough savings from the outsourcing to hire additional teachers.
However, school board support for the company steadily eroded over the years amid numerous complaints about alleged unsatisfactory work by Aramark — from dirty bathrooms to lack of equipment maintenance.
Paulding school board then voted earlier this month to allow Otott to begin negotiations with Southern Management to include it in a new “hybrid” system featuring a mix of public and private employees.
Board members voted 4-2, with board members Kim Cobb and John Dean opposing, to approve the contract extension worth about $1.68 million until Sept. 20 — the last school day before the annual one-week Fall Break.
It also gives the school district the option of ending the contract sooner, on Aug. 30, by giving Aramark 15 days notice.
The new vendor likely will begin its contract with Paulding the day after Aramark’s contract ends, a school district spokesman said.
Aramark employs 198 — including many former county school district employees — for its Paulding schools contract.
Karen Cutler, spokesperson for the Philadelphia-based company, said the company plans to keep all of its Paulding employees until its contract ends.
“Then it will be up to the district and new provider to offer them continued employment,” Cutler said.
She said Aramark officials “appreciate the opportunity to have served Paulding County schools and are proud of the contributions our employees made over the past five years.”
“We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition and wish the district continued success,” Cutler said.
Chief Financial Officer Steve Barnette said the total cost of the hybrid plan 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 plan calls for the school district hiring about 55 custodians to clean and maintain the district’s school buildings during the day.
A private vendor will hire its own workers to clean the district’s buildings at night under a contract with Paulding schools estimated to cost up to $4.4 million annually.
In addition to the school system custodians working during the day, the plan calls for them to monitor the private company’s nighttime work to make sure it is meeting the school district’s expectations, Otott said.
The company will decide the number of employees it needs to provide the level of service the district is seeking, officials said.
However, with an estimated 55 school district positions planned, it was unclear if the new vendor would absorb the 143 additional positions to comprise the 198 Aramark now employs.
Board member Jason Anavitarte said the action to allow a transition period is needed to allow time for the “significant implementation” of a new system.
He also suggested Southern Management do a “very hard cleaning” during the fall break to give a “benchmark” for the level of cleanliness the board was expecting.
Otott said the school district later in June planned to use its website to take applications for its open positions and provide a space for the chosen company to offer applications.
It also planned a job fair for custodial positions June 10 at the Wright Innovation Center in Hiram, he said.
In an earlier version of this article, the name of the vendor and the timing of a "very hard cleaning" requested by board member Jason Anavitarte were incorrect.