Soccer team helps out as school faces custodian staffing shortage

The Francis Howell School District started the school year with over 60 custodial positions open. Noticing the struggle, a JV soccer coach has his players helping.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — The Francis Howell School District started the school year with over 60 custodial positions open, so one coach is getting his players to help.

Francis Howell Central High School Soccer Coach Taylor Yocum’s student-athletes in St. Charles County are hanging up their cleats and picking up a mop.

While they have filled some of those throughout the year, the staff is still stretched thin.

Noticing the struggle, Yocum, is having his players step up and help.

“They’re here earlier than I am, they’re here later than I am. It’s just one of those things that kind of seemed like a no brainer,” he said.

On a week packed with games, Yocum decided to do something a little different for his junior varsity soccer practice.

“There’s always things that are getting dirty, always something needs to be cleaned, so just kind of came to me like that,” he said.

Yocum asked his 20 players to trade in their soccer balls for brooms.

“At first I sort of thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t,” Josh Stuhlman, soccer player, said.

“I didn’t really want to clean the entire school, but then once we started, it was really fun,” Cooper Troha, soccer player, said.

The sweeping and dusting weren’t just a bonding experience for Yocum’s team, but also a major help to the district, according to Superintendent Ken Roumpos.

“Very similar to other school districts and other industries, we have a significant number of positions open, specifically in our support staff position,” he said.

Roumpos said a big chunk of those open positions are custodial.

“The fact that they saw it as an opportunity, as part of the larger community, to make a difference in this building was fantastic,” he said.

The soccer team’s initiative is not only influencing other sports and school groups to do the same, but also students.

Sam Deuser, a senior, picks up trash after school athletic games.

“I can just tell the janitors are so stressed and they don’t need to be doing extra work because we can’t pick up our food and trash from the concession stands, so I think it’s really important that we help out,” she said.

While Yocum is glad his team is making a difference, he said. There is a deeper meaning behind every weight room and lunch table wipe down.

“The plan is for us to learn and build and understand, have some more humility for people empathy for others, and they’ve done a really good job with that,” he said.

Lessons that Stuhlman and Troha, who are both sophomores, are already learning.

“The janitors work really hard and doing their work really put that into perspective,” Stuhlman said.

“Knowing that we had only five janitors in the school made me feel better that we helped them out and made their job easier,” Troha said.

While Roumpos said he is grateful for the help, he knows it’s a solution that can’t be supported long-term.

“We love the fact that Coach Yocum stepped up and did this with his team. It’s amazing, but that’s not sustainable and we really do need to fill the positions and we need the community’s help in doing that,” he said.

The district is also offering part-time jobs as student custodial substitutes to high school students.

Students have to be 17 years old to be eligible to apply. You can apply here.

According to Roumpos, the district is also struggling to fill other positions like bus drivers and paraprofessionals.

You can find more information on open positions and how to apply here.

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