photo by Jonathan Morris
When something breaks, he fixes it. When the carpool line snakes across the parking lot, he’s directing traffic. And when COVID-19 hit, he re-equipped the school building for safety. No day is exactly alike for Facilities and Transportation Administrator Bill Belke.
“My role at the school is that I am a facilities manager as well as a transportation manager,” Belke said via Google Meet. “I make sure the building meets all the applicable codes, we also do setups for all the different activities, and just manage those processes and fix things when things break.”
Belke has an extensive background in production and manufacturing and joined CESJDS’ facilities team in 2014 after hearing about the job opening from his wife and human resources director, Lori Belke. Since then it’s been six years of unique issues and preventative maintenance. However, dealing with COVID-19 has been one of his most pressing challenges.
“We [set] the school up to be a safer environment and we put labels on the floor and automatic bottle fillers on the water fountain. We put all kinds of different signs up around and we added plexiglass around the classrooms.”
With an extensive knowledge of the upper school building, Belke replaces parts that people may be unaware of. “There’s an upstairs and a downstairs that most people don’t know about. There’s mechanical equipment upstairs and downstairs is where the main electrical room is,” he said.
In addition to maintaining the building, Belke occasionally works with students. Earlier this year, junior Will Sexter apprenticed with Belke.
“JDS doesn’t offer a shop class,” Sexter said. “Having knowledge and skills that can be applied in the real world on how to build things, how to fix things, are very important [to me]. I learned how to use a wide range of power tools, how to weld, how to use CAD software. It’s a very good thing when someone is willing to teach you something that they are passionate about.”
During free time in both of their schedules, Belke instructed Will on a wide variety of technical and engineering skills. Together, they constructed the stand at the back of the theater that houses the sound and light board and they began building a ski rack for Sexter’s home, before being interrupted by COVID-19.
Despite his low profile, Belke is an integral part of the JDS community, who orchestrates the school’s ability to learn in a safe and functional environment. When he’s not mitigating mechanical problems or implementing COVID-19 safety practices, Belke enjoys reading, going to the theater and spending time with friends and family at the beach in the lake community where he and his wife live.