No more stalling: fix the bathrooms

Isabella Borkovic, Sports Editor

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You open the bathroom door to a long line of people. One of the stalls is empty, but no one is using it because the toilet is clogged and filled to the brim. You have to watch your every step to avoid touching the puddles of water and the little clumps of soggy toilet paper that cover the muddy tiles. But you’re used to this, so you plug your nose, stand on your tip toes and try to pretend you’re anywhere else until a stall opens up for you to do your business.

The 300 and 700 wing bathrooms were built in the 1960s, and have only undergone one renovation since then, in the early 2000s. For the past twenty years, we have had the same toilets, which are now leaky and easily clogged; the same old floors that have settled into high and low points and now collect water into puddles; and the same tiles, which are now grimy and stained from years of use.  As a result, the Los Altos bathrooms are some of the most vile school bathrooms any of us have ever seen.

It’s true that Los Altos administration has taken some steps to resolve the bathroom issue. The administration has opened the theater bathrooms, which previously had only been unlocked during theater events, for daily use to increase the bathroom-to-student ratio. They have also increased custodial presence in the bathrooms for more frequent maintenance, which has helped. However, what we need is a complete renovation of the bathrooms.

The Los Altos administration has been pushing for such a renovation. According to assistant principal Galen Rosenberg, renovation would involve stripping the walls and tiles, installing new and automated toilets, and adding new ventilation; all of this would address many of the restrooms’ current issues.The cost would be in the six figures and construction would take six to eight weeks on top of the time needed to obtain permits from the state, according to facilities director Mike Woodworth and Associated Superintendent of Business Services Mike Mathiesen. However, the district has not approved spending yet, indicating that this is not a priority for them. Although the project would be costly and time-consuming, this time and money would be well-spent if it resulted in a clean, fully-functioning bathroom.

The state of the bathrooms has also exposed several issues at our school, the first being the district’s inability to address students’ needs as quickly as we would like them to. The bathrooms have been in a poor state for a long time—assistant principal Galen Rosenberg stated that they have been in their current “yucky” state for at least five years—yet the district only started seriously discussing the state of our bathrooms with the administration a year ago.

The second issue is communication—the administration has a history of poor transparency with students regarding the bathrooms. They did not communicate that they were going to temporarily close the 900 wing bathrooms due to fighting, nor did they openly communicate that the theater bathrooms were going to be open throughout the day. The administration does not and should not tell students everything, but it seems that they frequently do not communicate basic information that students need to “know before they go.”  

The other issue is us, the students. Yes, the bathrooms are gross, but that doesn’t mean that we should make them grosser. At my three years at Los Altos, I have heard about—and sometimes have seen firsthand—the illicit activities that go on in the bathrooms. There’s very little that hasn’t been done: students have had haircuts in the bathrooms, juuled in the stalls, started fires in the bathroom trash cans, fought for fun in the 900-wing bathrooms, peed on the walls and on the floors and stuck used bloody tampons in sinks and on stall doors.

While students are peeing on the floors and defacing the restrooms, the custodians who clean the 300 and 700 bathrooms have to take more than an hour to clean one bathroom because of the treatment they receive. Sure, it’s easier to ruin and vandalize our bathrooms when they are already so gross. But when people have fights in the bathrooms, they take away other students’ access to them. When people put tampons on the stall door, they make everybody lose sleep over the fact that there may or may not be a literal psychopath at our school.

So, this is my plea to the district, the administration and to you. To the district and the administration: renovate the bathrooms. We want clean bathrooms, and we need them. And to you all: treat the bathrooms with respect, no matter how gross they are. So let us not demean ourselves any longer. We don’t deserve leaky toilets and dirty, wet floors. We deserve clean bathrooms.