Look what (the bathrooms) made me do

September 12, 2017 — by Isabelle Yang

In the middle of a quiet camping ground, a single flashlight illuminates my face. Aside from the soft crooning of crickets, it’s quiet as the campfire circle leans in to hear a scary story. I clear my throat and start, “It was after third-period English when I stepped into Saratoga High’s bathrooms ...”

I wish with every cell in my body that I didn’t have to call any experience in the school’s dilapidated bathrooms a terror-filled one, yet that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Using most of the school’s student bathrooms is one horror after another. Starting with opening the door, it’s mandatory to hold your breath lest you want to be greeted by the staunch smell of death — that is, if death even smells like urine and feces fermenting into sewage in an unventilated prison.

In case you’ve desperately tried to erase the images of the putrid conditions (like I have) and succeeded (which I have not), let me traumatize you once again: stalls with locks that don’t work (why even have stalls if someone can and has barged into your stall because you picked the one without a lock?), meter-wide gaps between stalls that give for a perfect opportunity for awkward eye contact with some other tortured soul passing by while you’re half naked, and rusting sinks and soap dispensers that don’t work.

No doubt Saratoga High is a distinguished school. Need I remind you that it is the very school that has consistently ranked top 200 nationally according to usnews.com. It continuously boasts a multi-award winning music department and plenty of alumni who are attending and have attended prestigious schools. Yet it is also this school whose bathrooms often border on the unusable for students.

The disconnect between our state-of-the-art Media Arts building and the new music building and our bathrooms — which assumably every student and staff member uses — is alarming and discouraging. It’s a rather rude awakening every time a student has to struggle to dry their hands on the dying hand dryer’s sputtering breaths of moist air after being educated in classrooms stocked with the newest technology —  smart boards, Chromebooks and all.

If the school district can so confidently budget million dollars for new facilities, it can be assumed that these new structures are necessary. Yet even after two major bond measures in the past two decades, the district has failed to successfully update an important facility that students have no choice but to use.

No one is asking for powder rooms tiled with Italian marble and bidets. Students are solely asking for a school where they don’t have to specifically scout out “acceptable” bathrooms. Students are asking for a school where they don’t have to wait to go home to simply use the bathroom.

Students are asking for bathrooms where they don’t get stuck in the stall due to faulty doors. Students are asking for bathrooms where they can practice being hygienic instead of giving up washing their hands because of clogged, overflowing sinks. Students are asking, begging, for bathroom renovations that are long overdue.

As the school pays to build a new “student wellness center,” we’re also hoping that they are considering the “wellness” of students’ most basic needs and also work to improve the existing bathrooms on campus.