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County board passes “anti-Port-a-John” measure seeking permanent bathrooms in school stadiums

Justice High School’s football field (via FCPS/Facebook)

More than half of Fairfax County’s public high schools have no permanent restrooms for their outdoor athletic facilities, leaving players and spectators to endure the stench and claustrophobia of port-a-potties.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors hopes to rectify the situation, unanimously approving a board matter to consider funding for new bathrooms at 15 schools in the coming fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.

“We owe it to these schools to get them up to this standard for purposes of equity and public health and bottom-line fairness, so I hope we can support this and get this done as quickly as possible,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, who introduced the measure yesterday (Tuesday).

Fairfax County Public Schools has 28 high schools and 559 athletic fields that are used by the general community as well as students.

However, FCPS didn’t provide permanent stadium bathrooms when many schools were built, and the following schools have yet to get upgrades, despite growing concerns that port-a-potties are inadequate for facilities that can seat as many as 15,000 people:

  • Annandale
  • Chantilly
  • Edison
  • Hayfield
  • Justice
  • Lake Braddock
  • Lewis
  • Marshall
  • McLean
  • Mount Vernon
  • Robinson
  • South Lakes
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • West Potomac
  • Woodson

“The School Board and the Board of Supervisors have been partnering for some time to identify a path forward to address the need and provide stadium bathrooms,” an FCPS spokesperson said by email.

Directing county staff to include the projects as a consideration item when revising the adopted FY 2023 budget this fall, McKay called the lack of permanent bathrooms an equity concern in terms of geography, income, and gender, noting that the schools where this is an issue are spread across the county.

“Permanent bathroom facilities at stadiums should be standard, not a matter of where you live,” the board matter said.

He credited Megan McLaughlin and Karen Corbett-Sanders, who respectively represent Braddock and Mount Vernon districts on the school board, with advocating for facility improvements.

Expressing support for “the anti-Port-a-John board matter,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said outdoor bathrooms were one of the most anticipated benefits of recent renovations at Herndon High School.

According to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, West Potomac High School has been in need of permanent stadium restrooms since he was the PTA president “a couple of decades ago.”

“It frankly got down to economics, how you find the dollars to make this work,” Storck said.

The county estimates that approximately $15 million will be needed for all 15 projects. Exactly where that money will come from remains a question mark, but the Board of Supervisors suggested the costs will be shared between the county government and FCPS.

The board told staff to work with FCPS to determine how the costs will be split using data from a Synthetic Turf Task Force report published in 2013.

McLaughlin said in an emailed statement that she was “thrilled” to see the Board of Supervisors unanimously approve McKay’s board matter.

“This ongoing facility issue has been an important concern for many years among our principals, student activities directors, coaches, athletic boosters, student athletes, families, and County recreation leagues,” she said. “The lack of permanent bathroom facilities impacts students everyday with respect to PE classes, sports practices, and band practices. It also impacts spectators and County residents who use and/or visit our fields.”

McLaughlin said she and Corbett-Sanders, who were part of a working group convened by McKay on the topic, plan to submit a similar request for funding to the school board.

Photo via FCPS/Facebook

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