Isle of Wight County Public Schools considering unisex bathrooms in new middle school

Isle of Wight County Schools considering unisex bathrooms in new middle school
Posted at 12:33 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 12:33:11-05

The Isle of Wight County School Board held a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss putting unisex bathrooms in their new middle school, Westside Middle School.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thorton says the new design includes four to five individual stalls and a visible sink area that opens to the hallway.

Isle of Wight County Schools considering unisex bathrooms in new middle school

"It's really driven by, a place for all children to feel comfortable if they don't want to use the current restrooms," Thorton said.

Thorton says he is excited about the idea and he believes it would cut down on the number of kids vaping or experiencing bullying in the bathroom.

"Every school has issues of vaping and reports of bullying," Thorton said. "If that can be prevented by this open-space concept...what a great relief for administration and the students who are fearful and may not go to the restroom all day until they get home because they don't feel comfortable."

Thorton says the school board is overall supportive of the plan.

Vice-Chairman Michael Cunningham said he thinks unisex bathrooms will soon be legally required by state law.

While the single-use bathrooms do come at a slightly higher cost, Thorton and Cunningham agree it's significantly cheaper to build them when constructing a new building.

"It wouldn't make any sense, if we do choose the new building, to not plan on having gender-neutral restrooms," Cunningham said. "It's probably going to be one of those things where we have to have it. And why build a new building, and not put it in, if we go that route, and then have to renovate the new building later?"

This is why the new bathrooms will likely not make it into Smithfield High School.

The plan was also considered for renovations being done to Smithfield High, but with a $409,248 price tag, the superintendent says the high school will likely not see unisex bathrooms.

The construction of Westside Middle School is expected to take four to five years to complete.