A US school district can’t find janitors, so it is offering pupils R235 per hour to clean

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A custodian at the Mildred Avenue K-8 School in Boston on July 9, 2020.
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • The largest school district in Minnesota has launched a program to hire students as part-time janitors. 
  • The students must be at least 16 years old and are paid $15.30 (equivalent to R235) an hour, The Star Tribune first reported.
  • It comes amid a national labor shortage of janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and teachers in the United States.
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An American school district desperately needed 18 janitors — so they started hiring students to clean after class. 

The unusual work-study program launched at Blaine High School last week, The Star Tribune first reported. Students must be at least 16 years old and are paid $15.30 – the equivalent of R230 – an hour, according to a job application posted by the district, the largest school district in the state of Minnesota.

If the jobs were full time, that would equate to a monthly salary not very far from R40,000.

Schools across the USA are struggling to hire essential workers including substitute teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and janitors — positions historically known for low wages and poor benefits.

When schools transitioned to virtual learning during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers left the industry for good. This has led some districts to offer signing bonuses up to $20,000 (R300,000) and recruit parents to fill substitute positions. 

Blaine High School's student janitors do not clean bathrooms or locker rooms and can take the bus home from work, Tom Karp, the assistant director of buildings and grounds, told the news outlet. Their primary responsibilities are sweeping, vacuuming, taking out the trash, and disinfecting surfaces. 

The lack of a commute opens up the application to younger students who may not have a driver's license, he added. 

Record numbers of Americans have been quitting their jobs in search of better working conditions and the greater cleaning industry is no exception. Residential cleaning companies told Insider they're having to turn down business and reschedule or even cancel regular customers because they can't find enough staff.

"We're trying everything we possibly can, but there's also a limit as to what a small business can offer ... There's a fine line between getting employees and making enough profit to cover all your expenses," Jonathan Bergstein, owner of Maid to Sparkle, told Insider in November. 

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