Carolina housekeeping staff ‘turn’ 3 million square feet of campus residences

Starting around Commencement, Facilities Services staff work all summer so that rooms make a good impression when students return for fall semester.

a person dusting

There will soon be a buzz in the air that was missing before.

It returns each fall semester, as students once again flood Carolina’s campus. Tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students come home to Chapel Hill, and they need a place to live. For many, this means on-campus housing.

What often goes overlooked is all the work Facilities Services housekeeping staff members put in to make sure those dorms and apartments are ready for occupancy.

Exterior shot of Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)


George Dennos is the manager of Zone 221, which encompasses the Baity Hill, Ram Village and Manning East and West complexes — roughly 1 million square feet of space. In total, Carolina has approximately 3 million square feet of housing facilities.

Around the time of Spring Commencement, Dennos and his team take on their largest responsibility: summer cleaning.

They call it “turning” the rooms — getting them ready for the next residents.

“We will go in and do everything from A to Z to get that apartment ready for the next resident to come in,” Dennos said. “That means all the rooms get a complete cleaning.”

“We’re real busy from the first of May until the middle of August,” Dennos said. “One thing we’ve noticed here during the past two years with the COVID situation is that we’re doing more turns during the year as well.”

UNC Housekeeping Zone Manager George Dennos.

UNC Housekeeping Zone Manager George Dennos. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Facilities Services housekeeping employs 94 environmental services technicians to service and support Carolina’s residence halls.

Twelve of these employees work for Dennos in Zone 221. During the summer, they break into groups of three or four to turn the residences.

In Baity Hill alone, they turn 150 to 175 apartments.

They use a cleaning process called OS1, short for operating system one, which trains teams to work together more safely and efficiently.

Dennos’ team works from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week, completing as many turns as possible to meet deadlines. Every day, Dennos receives a schedule that lists units ready to be turned.

“We combine our efforts with the other folks on campus, like the maintenance folks and the painting team,” Dennos said. “Housekeeping is the caboose at the end of the line. Everybody does their part first, and we come in at the end and turn all that.”

Close-up of gloved hand cleaning a stove.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Good communication and first impressions

As a manager, Dennos assesses the approaching workload, puts together a budget for supplies and starts ordering them as early as February or March.

He makes the schedules for his team and sends each group out to turn two or three apartments. Throughout the day, he’ll check on the groups, making sure they have the supplies they need.

Dennos has been working at Carolina since 2015. Before that, he did similar work for a regional company for 24 years.

Dennos said that experience helps him here at Carolina, especially when it comes to customer service, which is a big part of the job.

UNC Housekeeping Crew Leader Valery Watson wipes down furniture.

UNC Housekeeping Crew Leader Valery Watson wipes down furniture. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

“I always tell everybody that communication is the most important thing,” Dennos said. “If you need something, please let us know. We can’t read minds, but we’re glad to offer you assistance. If there’s something you need, we will take care of that.”

Dennos said his job really comes down to the people he interacts with — the occupants and his staff.

“I have a wonderful group of 12 people. I think everyone communicates very well,” Dennos said.

“I’m really fortunate to have two great crew leaders,” he said, referring to Valery Watson and Hsa Nyaw. “I really feel good about each staff member’s contributions.”

The details make a world of difference.

For example, most of the buildings his team services have hard surface floors. To clean those, they sweep them, use a scrubbing machine on their surface and then buff to put the shine back on.

UNC Housekeeping Crew Leader Has Ka Nyaw uses a large machine to polish a hallway in Taylor Hall.

UNC Housekeeping Crew Leader Hsa Nyaw polishes a hallway in Taylor Hall. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

On the flip side, Baity Hill is almost entirely carpeted, which means vacuuming and shampooing. It’s a different approach for every building because every building is unique.

The payoff comes during move-in.

“When people enter a facility — be it a residence hall, a class building — first impressions are so important,” Dennos said. “You walk in and what you see reflects on what you’re experiencing. I always tell people the same thing: When we’re in a building and we’re taking care of an area, you put your trademark on it. When you have it maintained very well, it can make a great impression.”

Learn more about how resident advisors across campus are preparing housing communities for new Tar Heels and planning events to make them feel at home.