It’s early in the morning after a Country Day basketball practice, and the players are sweaty, tired and ready to get changed. But instead of entering the locker room — which is now little more than a glorified storage room — they’re forced to crowd inside the cramped bathrooms with no regard for physical distancing.
The school decided to keep the locker rooms closed. This not only doesn’t make sense, it actively impedes COVID-19 safety.
The school’s COVID-19 Policies and Procedures clearly state that while school lockers can be used, “gym locker rooms will remain closed.”
Instead, students change in the bathrooms, while the locker rooms are used to store desks and tables.
That’s right, desks and tables.
Head of High School Brooke Wells said that the social distancing requirements of the 2020-21 school year reduced the number of desks that could be used.
“A lot of the desks had to be moved out of classrooms, so they’re being stored there,” he said.
Wells also cited concerns about unsupervised use of the locker rooms.
“People stay there unsupervised when they’re not meant to be in there,” he said. “It’s just a sixth through 12th grade policy to not be in there.”
This reasoning, however, does not hold up.
The need for storage has changed since last year when COVID-19 restrictions were more stringent. Physical distancing in classrooms is no longer necessary to the same degree, so the desks and chairs haphazardly stuffed into the locker room showers presumably should have places to go.
The issue of supervision is also not unique to this school year. Students have been using the same locker room without a faculty member watching them, long before COVID-19. Why is it that only this year that locker room supervision has become an issue?
On top of that, students are not supervised while changing in bathrooms or other locations. Does the danger of unregulated changing modify itself based on location?
Even if the school could arrange supervision, is that something that should be considered? Having an adult observe students changing is inappropriate and shouldn’t be considered at all.
Beyond the practical considerations of locker room usage, there’s another major issue — physical distancing.
The Sacramento County Public Health guidelines regarding COVID-19 advise students to maximize their physical distancing whenever possible — including physical education classes and changing rooms.
The Centers for Disease Control also recommends that physical distancing be observed whenever possible.
Students changing in small, cramped bathrooms goes against that principle.
Currently, multiple student-athletes are shoved together in closed, cramped bathrooms.
Since there are only three stalls in each bathroom, students are forced to wait in line. That’s if students only change in the stalls. Often, students change wherever space is available in order to make it to practice on time — even as others enter the bathroom to actually use it.
This is all despite the sign on the door labeled “Maximum Occupancy 2.” Because of time and practicality concerns, this rule is rarely followed.
In the mornings, boys basketball practice results in a crowded bathroom.
Throughout the day, students in middle school physical education classes stream in and out of the bathroom getting ready as quickly as possible for their classes while high school students wait in line for an empty stall.
As school comes to an end, girls basketball players fill the bathroom to get ready for practice. Meanwhile, high school students flow out of classes after a long day, adding to the ever-lengthening queue in the bathrooms.
There is clearly a necessity for a changing space for student-athletes and physical education students that is separate from the bathroom space being used by all high school students.
Even with desks and other classroom furniture being stored in the locker rooms, the available space in the locker rooms is greater than any other changing space on campus.
A larger space would mean a larger maximum occupancy. Even if students exceed the maximum occupancy at times, they will be much more distanced than in the cramped bathrooms.
Wouldn’t it make sense for students to change in the biggest, most open space? Doing so would ensure the largest possible amount of social distancing and keep students safe.
Originally published in the Nov. 16 edition of the Octagon.