Impression of James River: As Seen Through its Bathrooms

By Ian DeHaven

Imagine that you are at a new friend’s house and have just finished eating lunch. You make your way over to the restroom, just one hallway down and on the right. You have never used this bathroom before, yet have no reason to doubt its spick and span cleanliness.

You walk down the hallway, and your hand touches the shiny doorknob. Open the door, and your eyes are filled with the scene of a disaster -- trash and dip in the sink, unflushed toilets, paper towels strewn on the floor…

You are shocked. Surely keeping a bathroom in this condition is unacceptable, especially for visitors. Why, then, do we present similar bathroom disasters to visiting sports teams, students, and parents at James River High School?

Our bathrooms are inexcusably unkempt, and it’s not the fault of the custodians.  

What would you think of your new friend after finding the bathroom in such disarray? What message do you think our bathrooms send to others?

Frankly, our bathrooms reflect poorly on us as a student body. Frequent mistreatment of the bathroom shows little school pride or regard for the resources at James River and aggravates our janitors who are responsible for fixing the bathroom. Every time someone packs a urinal with paper towels, or leaves trash scattered in the sink our janitors are required to pick it up as part of their job to maintain our facilities.

Asked for comment, our janitorial staff erupted with thoughts about our bathrooms, frustrated with the extra time, money, and care that must sometimes be expended to sufficiently clean. Additional student-caused messes add unfairly to a workload that should strictly be maintenance --  not a daily deep clean.

Janitors also talked about how students are affected by the bathrooms in more ways than just self-created and undesirable conditions. For every pair of gloves they must change and every extra ounce of cleaning solution they must spray, money is taken from our school’s total budget and put towards cleaning. Disorderly conduct is quite literally taking money out of our school’s pocket, money that could go towards the betterment of our opportunities instead of surplus cleaning.

Janitors suggested that this bathroom problem could be solved if student conduct improved, but if anything that is a hopeful answer. Previous attempts to nudge students in the right direction, such as the “Keep Your School Clean” signs posted in the bathroom, have been flatly ignored or torn off the wall and left on the floor to be found. This doesn’t leave the problem unfixable, though.

Another solution janitors pointed out was the idea of students helping them clean, similar to the trash pickup program already in place. That program has been very beneficial to them when it is actually carried out, and is a simple way for students to alleviate tedious cleaning. In addition to the trash emptying program, every student could pick up one piece of trash anywhere and not steal work from the janitors.

Teachers were also mentioned in the janitor’s lengthy comments: “You can tell at the end of the day which teachers have control over their students by the status of their classes. Kids throwing paper, kids throwing pencils on the floor, leaving books on the floor -- that’s a big issue. Books on the floor. If we have to stop and pick up each book, how much longer is each room going to take?” All the more power and support for the idea of one kid picking up one trash item, and the effect that can have.

Clearly, the students have an effect on the janitor’s cleaning schedule. And when students are helpful, the janitors are immensely appreciative. Our school’s money is saved, and those who helps our janitor’s job be as painless as possible would surely get a “thank you” from our grateful staff.

Above all, though, the janitors had this to say: “We want students to be well rounded academically, but we also want to show kids they should be hygienic, and self-respecting.” They simply want what is best for us, the students, and them. Would it be so hard to help them out and help ourselves with it?

As users of the James River bathroom, let’s work as students to make things as nice as possible for us and the janitor: one piece of trash picked up at a time, one paper towel off of the floor, one dip not scattered in the sink, or one feminine product disposed of properly. Things are not as bad as they could be, but they could definitely improve, so let’s have the school pride and self-respect to make this simple and courteous goal possible.