Pioneers Together — Our Community Responds to COVID-19: Chris Irving and Scott Deskins

Pioneers Together — Our Community Responds to COVID-19: Chris Irving and Scott Deskins By Robert W. Dalton This article appeared originally in the Fall 2020 issue of Frontiers Magazine.

When COVID-19 sent everyone home in the spring, Chris Irving and Scott Deskins ’99 went to work to prepare for a safe return in the fall.

Chris Irving and Scott Deskins
Chris Irving (left) and Scott Deskins (right)

“We were basically running with a skeleton crew,” said Irving, a Custodial Supervisor in the Facilities Department. “There were very few people on campus, and my department was cleaning out dorms. We started preparing for fall 2020 when everyone went home in the spring. We were doing things we weren’t used to doing at times we weren’t used to doing them.”

The skeleton crew quickly became an army, with SMC doubling the size of its custodial staff. The main goal, Irving said, was to give the campus a top-to-bottom cleaning three times a day. Irving and his team installed 30 hand sanitation stations, and SMC ordered 40,000 masks to be distributed to faculty, staff, students, and visitors. They also gathered cleaning supplies to give to students living in dorms, and compiled about 40 quarantine kits in case any students tested positive.

“We’ve set an incredibly high standard at SMC,” Irving said. “It’s something we’re proud of.”

Deskins, SMC’s Facilities Event and Administrative Coordinator, handled a lot of crucial behind-the-scenes operations that kept the College going, according to President Scott Cochran. His initial role was to assist students in getting moved out. He also maintained mail services, performed any needed repairs, and assisted with moving furniture and supplies.

Summer is usually a busy time for Deskins, and this one was no different.

His duties, however, were vastly different. “I normally help coordinate a lot of events, including Commencement,” he said. “In the summer, we usually conduct a lot of camps, but they all got canceled. When that happened, my summer became creating occupancy signs, clearing furniture, and other steps to prepare the campus for classes.”

With the fall semester in full swing, Deskins is hoping for a gradual return to normalcy. SMC is planning to hold events next summer, and he has already booked one camp. But he knows there are no guarantees.

“We have to look at everything through a filter, the COVID-19 filter, so you never know,” he said. “We have to always be mindful of it and try to do what we think is best, even when no one can say for sure what is best.”

One thing is for sure. These two colleagues and their teams are working hard behind the scenes to maintain a clean and safe environment for all Pioneers.

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