Down the drain

The decline in restroom conditions brings about much needed renovations


Kayla Kozak

A sign taped to the mirror instructs female students to use hand sanitizer in the second-floor girls' bathroom on Tuesday, Nov. 14. All sinks were replaced with new fixtures by the end of Thanksgiving break.

The hallways of any high school are always unpredictable. You never know what you may see. That was especially true when students like sophomore Alex Hau were seen walking the hallways cradling foam soap in their palms on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Students were taken aback when they found that there were no working sinks in their respective restrooms on the second floor of the academic wing. Hau was among the few that discovered this first-hand. “There wasn’t any water coming out of the sinks, which was gross. I had to go down to the first floor just to wash my hands,” Hau said.

News of the second floor dry-spell spread quickly. The following day, signs appeared on the mirrors of the affected bathrooms reading “Sinks out of order – Use sanitizer.” In the middle of that same week, members of the facilities staff were seen removing the problematic sinks from the women’s restrooms on the second floor in the academic wing, closing it off until repairs were completed following Thanksgiving break.

“We have been acutely aware of the issue,” Director of Facilities Stewart Walker said. “The bones of these restrooms are from 1964. We’ve been making incremental changes and we understand the frustration and are working to change it. We didn’t want to delay it any further. We’re sick of dealing with them as well.”

We’ve been making incremental changes and we understand the frustration and are working to change it.”

— Director of Facilities Stewart Walker

According to Walker, the problem is the solar-powered, motion-activated sinks that were installed twelve years ago, as the many electrical components have become hard to deal with over time. Not only are they becoming more and more prone to failure, but it would be extremely expensive to replace many of them at one time.

The result is a “Band-Aid” solution that followed last summer’s third-floor sink replacements. “We took the working parts from the replaced third-floor sinks and patchworked them into the second floor,” Walker said.

While female students were relieved to see that the problematic, turquoise appliances were finally getting the boot, some male students were left scratching their heads.

“I don’t know what the problems were, but I think that if you’re going to renovate the girls’ bathroom, you should do the guys’ too, especially since there are sometimes whole ceiling tiles missing in there,” Hau said.

Luckily for Hau, and students that share his concerns, Building Superintendent Joe McGrain stated in an email sent on Dec. 1 that the men’s restrooms on both the first and second floor of the academic wing are scheduled to receive renovations as well.

These are anticipated to be completed by the conclusion of Christmas break.

The choice to address the sinks of one bathroom before the other, despite the long-term, unresolved problems plaguing both the men’s and women’s rooms, was based on what Walker describes as JC’s “Renovation Enhancement Phase.”

“Instead of everything being done en masse, we’ve taken this incremental approach so that people can see that something is always happening, which is important to understanding the progress being made,” Walker said.

This ideology also applies to other recent upgrades outside of the restrooms, such as the St. Joseph’s room renovations and the newly finished model classroom. It is easy to see that progress is being made around the school, but according to the semi-annual survey conducted by facilities, some may argue it is not being focused in the right areas of the campus.

This survey, distributed to students and faculty members, asks questions related to the overall appearance, cleanliness, and safety of the school.
According to Walker, the top-three issues cited on the survey are almost always the conditions of locker rooms, the need to update restrooms, and the ongoing traffic struggle.

Unfortunately, the solutions to these issues are easier said than done, requiring large amounts of money and time. Walker notes that the locker rooms in particular, while admittedly in need of major modifications, are an extremely expensive project.

“Even if the school’s focus remains on renovation of [other] spaces, funding drives decision-making. We could theoretically design the entire renovation of the academic wing, but until we have the money, we cannot move forward,” Walker said.

Kayla Kozak is a Copy Editor for The Patriot and