Irvington Bathroom Issues and Indefinite Closures

District Maintenance workers working to restore bathroom piping.

Over the past couple months of the school year, infrastructure at Irvington, specifically the school bathrooms, have been shutting down. Mainly, issues have been seen in the 200s wing of the school, the new building, and the senior hallway. 

As the school grows older, the plumbing system for the bathrooms does too, but repairing them requires more funding. The pipes are unable to support the amount of sewage that flushes through, and clogged toilets cause additional problems with the system. 

“The plumbing that they put in to begin with wasn’t meant to support this big school,” said custodian Mr. Santos. “And when kids flush tons of toilet paper or sanitary napkins and stuff they’re not supposed to in there, then it plugs it up.”

The piping system is all connected throughout the school, and issues in one bathroom of the school can affect those across the campus. To combat this, plans to install newer piping have been made. 

“If the 200s wing doesn’t get resolved, they’re looking at some potential construction or replacement for the summer,” said Principal Hicks. “They’re hoping they’ve narrowed it down to just that section.”

But beyond piping, vandalism and vaping are some of the biggest things causing bathroom closures. When vandalism occurs, the bathrooms have to be closed off so that they can be cleaned off and reopened again. Vaping is also present in the school bathrooms, and bathrooms are closed to prevent students from doing it. 

“A couple of weeks ago, they were open. But we had to close them again, because you  have kids smoking in the bathroom. When we open them, then someone’s lighting fires or putting all the paper towels all over. So then we have to close them again,” says custodian Mr. Conlan. 

In the new building, the fire alarm is sensitive to smoke, causing so many of the fire alarms this year. 

But while taking disciplinary measures is important, students do still have to go to the bathroom, and closing multiple of them at the same time presents its own problem. The administration is working closely with the district in an attempt to resolve this, trying to keep as many bathrooms open as possible. The bathrooms in the 200s wings have been “fixed” multiple times now, with maintenance crews from the district working in the area often. They have had issues with both the girls and the boys bathrooms, as well as problems with leaking sewage. Even if the response time is fast, the closures will be permanent for at least the rest of the school year. The issues with the piping remain, and it is difficult to predict when the school will be able to operate at the full number of facilities again. 

With the multiple closures, Irvington doesn’t meet the California Education Code’s required number of lavatory facilities for boys. Of the 20 bathroom facilities on campus, 3 are almost always closed. There are two closures in the new building while the two 200s wing bathrooms are closed for the rest of the year, and these are among the largest bathroom facilities we have. Although we are compliant when all facilities are up and running, the state gives some leeway when the closures are due to deterioration issues. There is not enough demand to bring in new lavatory facilities. The working bathrooms we do have don’t have long lines, which is why it is not seen as a bigger issue by the administration. 

As the administration works to keep all the bathrooms up and running, students will have to walk slightly farther during their passing period. While these closures may present an inconvenience, they are implemented to keep the student population safe.