All it takes is a few minutes to hang out with a bunch of teenagers to get the real scoop on what is going on at our schools. Whether it’s Bella bringing her soccer friends home for a BBQ, or my niece with some of her fellow cheerleaders, I always make it a point to ask the group how things are going at school. I hear all kinds of things, but one topic that is consistent regardless of who I ask– the state of the bathrooms at JLHS.

My niece said, “yeah, I don’t use the bathrooms there. I hold it and wait until I get home.”

“What? There is NO WAY that could be true,” I replied. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “it is what it is…”

I’m not too fond of those five words. “It is what it is…”

I brought it up at a board meeting. It seemed to me that something so critical and addressable should be something that we could tackle. I asked the board for consensus to get pricing on what it would take to upgrade these vital facilities– we had a deferred maintenance budget for a reason, I thought. If anything needed updating, these bathrooms sure did!

Boy, did our administration get to work! Our superintendent and staff took these comments and did way more than get pricing. I was delighted to learn that our team re-prioritized some ongoing deferred maintenance projects based on the conversation during that meeting. I am happy to report that 43 bathrooms at JLHS are currently in the process of being upgraded.

So, I was taken aback about how easy it was to get this addressed. All I had to do was listen to the students and convey that message to the staff! We had money in our deferred maintenance budget, so money wasn’t an issue. The board needed to hear it from our students, and our staff just needed to hear it from the board.

I also mentioned that we needed to address the state of our drinking fountains at our school sites. I am also happy to report that we are in the process of replacing water fountains at our sites with chilled, filtered fountains that will allow our students to fill their reusable water bottles.

These things are essential– not luxuries. We, as leaders, need to listen to our students and parents and then direct our staff. It’s not always simple, but it doesn’t always have to be complicated either.

So, why were the bathrooms in that state FOR YEARS? The only thing that I can think of was, “Well, we as a community just learned to accept less.” We just learned that “well, the bathrooms at our high school are just nasty.” I get this a lot from people–” it is what it is…” We can never tolerate those five words. As long as I represent Area 1, those are the words I will fight every day. It is what we make it.