Which Columbus public schools are the cleanest and dirtiest? Here are the 2018-19 ratings.

Retired Army veteran says school’s cleanliness is his personal mission

According to the Muscogee County School District’s annual ratings Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy was the the cleanest school in the MCSD during the past school year. The school's four-person custodial team is led by Army veteran Nehemiah Russ.
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According to the Muscogee County School District’s annual ratings Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy was the the cleanest school in the MCSD during the past school year. The school's four-person custodial team is led by Army veteran Nehemiah Russ.

For the second straight year, Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy is the cleanest school in the Muscogee County School District, according to district’s annual ratings.

MCSD inspectors use a standardized system to evaluate the condition of the schools each month. Downtown’s average score on the 100-point scale during the 2018-19 school year was 99.2, an increase of 2.8 points from the 2017-18 ratings.

Four other schools also beat Downtown’ 96.4 that was the district’s top score last year: St. Elmo 98.4, Allen 97.8, Rainey-McCullers 96.6 and Woodall 96.6, while Spencer’s 96.4 tied it. Spencer had the lowest score last year, with an 80, so moving into a new building last summer likely helped its score.

The lowest score this year is at Midland Middle School, with an 87.4, dropping 6.4 points from last year’s 93.8. But that 87.4 would have beaten 36 of the district’s 57 schools — nearly two-thirds — last year.

Here’s another indicator of MCSD schools being cleaner: Last year, 13 of them were at 90 or better; this year, 43 are at that level.

And for the third straight year, no MCSD school is in the 70s. Two were at that level in 2015-16, the first year the district released such scores: Rigdon Road Elementary School was at 78.2 then but is at 90.4 now; Rothschild Leadership Academy, a middle school, was at 79.9 then but is at 89.8 now.

List of scores

The following scores, on a 100-point scale, measure the cleanliness of Muscogee County schools. They are based on the district’s average monthly inspection scores during the 2018-19 school year:

95 to 100

Elementary schools

  • 99.2 Downtown 99.2
  • 97.8 Allen
  • 95.8 South Columbus
  • 95.2 Davis

High schools

  • 96.4 Spencer
  • 96.2 Early College
  • 96 Carver 96
  • 95 Northside

Specialized schools

  • 98.4 St. Elmo 98.4,
  • 96.6 Rainey-McCullers
  • 96.6 Woodall

90 to 94.9

Elementary schools:

  • 94.8 Britt David
  • 94.2 Georgetown
  • 94 Martin Luther King Jr.
  • 93.6 Dawson
  • 93.6 Johnson
  • 93.4 Double Churches
  • 93.4 Eagle Ridge
  • 93.2 Hannan
  • 93.2 River Road
  • 91.6 Reese Road
  • 91.6 Wesley Heights
  • 91.6 Wynnton
  • 91.4 Dimon
  • 91 North Columbus
  • 90.4 Clubview
  • 90.4 Forrest Road
  • 90.4 Rigdon Road
  • 904. Waddell
  • 90.2 Brewer
  • 90 Gentian
  • 90 Midland
  • 90 St. Marys Road

Middle schools

  • 93.4 Double Churches
  • 91.4 Fort
  • 90.8 Richards
  • 90.2 Aaron Cohn
  • 90.2 Veterans

High schools

  • 91.8 Columbus
  • 90.4 Hardaway
  • 90.2 Jordan
  • 90.2 Kendrick

Specialized schools

  • 94.6 Marshall

85 to 89.9

Elementary schools:

  • 89.8 Key
  • 89.8 Lonnie Jackson
  • 89.8 Mathews
  • 89.6 Blanchard
  • 896 Dorothy Height
  • 89.4 Fox

Middle schools:

  • 89.8 East Columbus
  • 89.8 Rothschild 89.8
  • 89.6 Baker
  • 89.6 Blackmon Road
  • 89.6 Eddy
  • 89.4 Arnold
  • 87.4 Midland

High schools:

  • Shaw 89.4

How does the top school do it?

Nehemiah Russ is Downtown’s head custodian. The school’s other custodians are Mary Belton, Cynthia Jefferson and Marquise Dale, who replaced Renay Quiette last week after she moved out of the district. Downtown’s principal is Tujuana Wiggins.

Russ, a retired command sergeant major with 24 years of service in the U.S. Army, has been working at Downtown for 11 years. He praised his staff for doing an “amazing job. … I’m just the lead, but they do the majority of the work.”

He also credits Wiggins for being a “wonderful principal that allows us to do our job” as well as the staff and students, who “help us maintain it.”

Russ considers his job part of mentoring and educating the 355 students at the K-5 school, where six of his 29 grandchildren attended.

“We love them like we love our own,” he said.

The worst mess he needs to clean, Russ said with a chuckle, is when boys “do their No. 2 in the urinal.” But rubber gloves and a sense of humor solve the problem.

“You deal with it,” he said. “You have your ups, and you have your downs, so those are some of your downs. … The day’s going to be better.”

Russ and his crew make Downtown better every day, said Wiggins, preparing for her fifth year leading the school. They are a “great example of what a role model and hard work looks like,” she said.

The custodians help her staff create “a positive learning environment,” Wiggins said. “… When you’re in a clean place, it has a way of relaxing you, making you feel comfortable, reducing stress.”

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.