School district to eliminate locker rooms, replace them with gender-neutral facilities

The Eastern Lancaster County School District voted Monday to initiate an ambitious renovation plan to create non-gender specific facilities at its high school in place of traditional gender-specific locker rooms. 

Board members unanimously passed policy 253 on Monday night, the first student day of the 2019-2020 school year. 

The $2.4 million renovation plan for Garden Spot High School includes the design of four “zones” that will hold a total of 48 private changing rooms and 76 private showers, Lancaster Online reported.  Because each of the showers will be private, they can also double as changing rooms, making a total of 124 changing rooms under the new plan. 

“This District policy states that multi-user locker rooms and restrooms will be separated based on biological sex. But the idea behind the policy is much deeper,” the board wrote in a statement regarding the new measure. “We’ve worked hard to arrive at a solution that balances varied interests – which is why we’re systematically converting multi-user facilities into a series of single-user facilities.” 

Starting at the beginning of the school year, there will be 13 single-user restrooms, which will be available to all students for any reason — no special permission required. 

“ELANCO prides itself in not simply providing reasonable accommodations to those who need them, but going above and beyond to provide extraordinary accommodations for all its students,” the board wrote. 

RELATED: Controversial transgender policy adopted in Pickens County

The board believes the new spaces will be very popular among students, but these 13 single-user restrooms are only the first step in a much larger inclusivity initiative. 

The board is working to eliminate locker rooms, replacing them instead with single-user restrooms, showers and changing rooms, as well as specified classrooms for teams to meet during competition when they would normally congregate in a gender-specific locker room. The spaces will have entry points in public areas of schools so that any student, regardless of assigned sex and gender identity can access them. 

Of the decision to create team classrooms, the board said, “Because nobody will change in any classroom, including these team classrooms, both sexes can be present. This really helps, for instance, when we have a girls’ team coached by a male, or vice versa.”

“While this involves a significant investment,” the board acknowledged, “It is a worthwhile one that will serve students, coaches and the school well for many years to come.” 

The Eastern Lancaster County School Board received backlash over the 2018-2019 school year, during which it allowed a transgender boy to use the boys’ restroom, as well as the boys’ locker room during gym class. 

“To be absolutely clear, we seek to accommodate any student in need of an accommodation because we believe accommodations can help all students to thrive,” the board wrote it its most recent statement. “We also want to preserve bodily privacy in spaces that exist to provide privacy from those with the opposite anatomy. Some might say it’s an impossible task to balance all those interests. But it is one we’re working to implement.” 

The board asked the community to be patient as the plan pans out, and assured stakeholders that the district’s superintendent, Dr. Bob Hollister, has been working diligently throughout the summer alongside a team of administrators, the architects, the school’s athletic department and the facilities manager to plan the renovations in a way that best suits the entire community. 

Renovations are expected to be completed by December 2020.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.