Responding to parents’ complaints, Frederick County officials have come up with specific solutions for addressing the restroom shortage at the overcrowded Urbana Elementary School.
The best option, according to school officials, is to purchase an eight-stall portable bathroom trailer for students who take classes in portables outside the packed main building. The restroom unit will cost $45,000 to $50,000, plus about $4,000 to $7,000 to install, which is the most cost-effective solution to the problem, school system facilities director Ray Barnes said.
“It is going to look like a small office trailer,” said Barnes who is scheduled to present his staff’s recommendation to the school board on Wednesday, after The Gazette print deadline.
Ultimately, the school board will decide how to solve problems at the crowded school, where it has not been unusual for students to wait in line 20 minutes before they can use a bathroom.
Other possibilities that board members were expected to discuss on Wednesday include adding more restrooms to the existing school building or bringing in a specialized 12-classroom portable, which is already equipped with a bathroom, Barnes said. But school staff has recommended against those solutions because they cost more and are more difficult to execute.
Adding more classrooms to the existing building would cost $131,000 to $326,000. A new 12-classroom portable can run between $650,000 and $735,000, said Barnes.
The shortage of student bathrooms at Urbana Elementary has been a concern for parents for the past year, and has been a direct result of growing enrollment.
In the past year, Urbana Elementary had 739 students and was operating at 111 percent of its building capacity. Population at the school is expected to continue to grow. By 2017, school officials expect it to be at 133 percent of capacity with 148 students more than it had in 2011-12 school year.
School and county officials have long-term plans to address the problem and are planning to build a new Urbana Elementary school by August 2017 or 2018.
In the meantime, however, the main solution to the problem has been adding more portable classrooms to the 51-year-old school.
Urbana Elementary had six portables in 2010-11 and 10 this year. Officials expect to add another four next school year.
But since individual portables have no restrooms, this has been a problem for students who in the past year had to stand in long lines to get a chance to use one of two bathrooms located in the school’s main building.
“They have to literally schedule the restroom breaks,” said Becca Clark, an Urbana Elementary parent who has been asking since December for a better solution.
Although Clark was encouraged by staff’s recommendations, she believes that a better way to solve the issue is to bring in a 12-classroom portable with an indoor bathroom to Urbana Elementary. Unlike the restroom trailer, the multi-unit portable would eliminate the need for students to go outside every time they need to use the bathroom.
“The restroom trailer is a great start,” said Clark. “I think it is wonderful for next year. But it is a temporary solution and our problem is not a temporary problem.”