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 Getting to Know SDCOE: Custodians Keep Camps in Top Shape

It's no easy feat maintaining hundreds of acres and dozens of buildings at the three outdoor education sites operated by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).

But the Outdoor Education maintenance team of Dino Stavros, James Hawkins, and Maurice Nimmons has been doing it for years. Together, they have nearly six decades of experience taking care of Cuyamaca Outdoor School, Camp Palomar, and Camp Fox.

Stavros, Hawkins, and Nimmons repair, maintain, and manage projects at all three sites. Their work entails everything from keeping bats and other critters out of the buildings, building projects such as greenhouses, cleaning up erosion damage after rains, and preventing squirrels and woodpeckers from filling ducts with acorns. And that's just a sampling.

There's never a dull moment. They maintain busy, non-traditional work schedules that include nights and weekends, but that's what it takes to keep the camps well-oiled machines.

"When you run 450 kids through Cuyamaca, things break constantly," said Stavros, a Maintenance and Operations supervisor who's been with SDCOE for 30 years.

The maintenance trio enjoys the hands-on work, whether it's building new cabinets for a dining hall or interacting with site rental guests.

Camp Fox and Camp Palomar are sites SDCOE maintains in North County that were once used for 6th Grade Camp and are now used for event rentals. Cuyamaca Outdoor School is the current site of 6th Grade Camp. It's located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in the mountains east of San Diego.

The maintenance team works daily to ensure that all three sites are maintained to the highest standards so that they are ready to be shown to potential clients at any time.

The everyday tasks are routine but extensive: cleaning the swimming pools, running the water and heating systems, gardening and landscaping. Then, there are bigger projects like renovating the Cuyamaca greenhouse.

"They did an amazing job rehabilitating the camp greenhouse," said Bob Mueller, Outdoor Education executive director. "It was not being used and had fallen into disrepair. Now that it's been rebuilt, it's being used to grow native species as a part of our collaboration with California State Parks. It's now a beautiful, functional instructional space and a wonderful example of how our maintenance team supports learning."

The maintenance team members said they appreciate making such a difference, as well as the opportunity to work in the great outdoors and all the wildlife and scenery it offers.

"It's beautiful, peaceful," Hawkins said.