Johnny Bochat and Mike Waterman do much of the physical labor as Desert Wind Middle School prepares not only for a new school year but also the addition of sixth graders. Photo by Michelle Chance

The halls within Desert Wind Middle School are virtually empty in June. Besides the few classes of children attending summer school, the building can feel vacant by the afternoon.

Lined against its olive-hued walls are hundreds of desks. Most classrooms are emptied, chairs pushed to the side.

It’s the time of year most students don’t see at school – staff rearranging entire classrooms, scrubbing glue off of floors, mopping and buffing them to a sparkle.

But not all is quiet.

A bluesy guitar riff echoes through the school lobby.

The sounds don’t come from the music department, but instead from within the facilities office.

Inside is Site Lead Custodian Mike Waterman, whose fingertips strum the strings of a black guitar. His audience of one is Night Custodian Johnny Bochat.

It’s a rare time the two break from the labor their summer duties require.

The pair is responsible for keeping the school operational and clean throughout the year.

 “We do anything they need to make the thing move smoothly,” Waterman said.

And in the summer that means a lot of heavy-lifting around the large 48-room campus that will soon house nearly 700 students once school starts in the fall, Waterman said.

In August, the custodial team will add 14 previously unused rooms to their daily cleaning routes due to the influx of sixth grade students from district elementary schools.

To prepare, the two-man team is in charge of rearranging the entire school before kids return.

“Something that might have been a computer lab this year is now going to be something else this year,” Waterman said.

So while shampooed carpets and polished linoleum floors dry, the men move furniture from one end of the building to the other.

More classes to clean, and even more students to clean up after, mean Waterman and Bochat will receive a new fulltime custodial co-worker once school begins.

“It’s still going to be a lot for three people,” Waterman said.

Although the workload is heavy, the duo still finds time to lead interesting lives.

Bochat is a native Maricopan who loves working with his hands and spending time outdoors. In the past, he combined his love of craft and adventure when he lived in Alaska working as a mechanic. Soon he will vacation in Prescott to pan for gold.

Waterman is the unofficial in-house artist known as “Miko Ceviche.” Administrators and staff hang his acrylic paintings in their offices, often switching and trading them out between each other.

It’s a work culture the two men said they love.

“I’m with these people more than I am with my family,” Waterman said. “You work eight hours a day with (them) and they become your family after a while.” 

Mike Waterman’s paintings are seen at various locations with MUSD and he plays a mean blues guitar, too. Photo by Michelle Chance