THE amount of money wasted in removing and reinstating toilets at New Norfolk High School is being kept secret by the Education Department and Education Minister Roger Jaensch. School senior managers have been left red-faced after they decided it was a good idea to remove nine toilet cubicles and the doors on the three remaining functional toilets, leaving students and parents distressed.
In a victory for people power, parents and friends of students demanded the toilets be reinstated. Plumbers worked at the long weekend to reinstate the toilets and doors. The Gazette asked the Department and the Minister what the cost was of removing and reinstalling the toilets, but both declined to answer.
The bizarre decision was made in an attempt to stop smoking and vaping in the restrooms. Students returned to school last week to discover the number of toilets available to them had been significantly cut, with nine toilets removed, leaving just one for each of three student blocks.
As well, the only toilet remaining in each block had the door removed, meaning students had no privacy. As a result, high school students in Year 7 girls block, Year 10 boys block and Year 10 girls block were made to wait in queues to use the facilities.
Students were forced to wait for as long as half an hour to use a toilet and when they did privacy was taken away as the door had been removed. As well, a block of port-a-loos has been installed as a temporary measure. It appears the Education Department was as shocked as the parents when learning of the toilet situation.
“Upon being made aware of the situation at New Norfolk High School the Department took immediate action to re-install toilets and doors at the school ahead of students returning to school on Tuesday, February 14,’’ a spokesperson said.
Work was under way all weekend, with four cubicles reinstated in the Year 7 girls block; two cubicles reinstated in the Year 10 boys block; and three cubicles reinstated in the Year 10 girls block.
Additionally, and as a temporary measure for the coming week if required, there is the capacity to use mobile bathroom units which have been placed onsite. Mr Jaensch said the Department had worked closely with New Norfolk High School to reinstate all cubicles.
“The Department will work with the school and the school community to find alternate approaches to these matters,’’ Mr Jaensch said. “Broader school resourcing will not be impacted by these works.’’
Parents took to social media to highlight the issue saying it was a breach of human rights. An online petition received about 500 signatures in just a couple of days.
“NNH 2023 has started the year by removing majority of toilet facilities for students. Students are being made to line up to gain access to a toilet for anywhere up to 30 minutes,’’ the online petition read. “This was done in an attempt to stop smoking or vaping in toilet cubicles, however this is also a massive violation of human rights.
“Students should most definitely have access to a toilet in a timely manner, due to general use, sickness, health conditions and should not be being penalised and made line up to 1 cubicle in an attempt to curb bad behaviour of a minority.’’
Derwent Valley Mayor Michelle Dracoulis described the incident as unacceptable. “Our kids have a human right to access bathroom facilities when they need them,’’ Mrs Dracoulis said. “I understand there will be reasons the school has taken this step, but there needs to be another way found to address those issues.’’
Mrs Dracoulis met with senior school representatives yesterday.