Project CLEAN has worked 25 years to improve the safety, cleanliness and hygiene of public school restrooms and is the national leader in these efforts.

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Dr. Tom Keating
PO Box 125
Decatur, GA 30031
Phone: 404-694-2905

Public SchoolRestrooms in a Post COVID-19 World

Public School Restrooms in a Post COVID-19 World

by Dr. Tom Keating

Handwashing involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) and helps prevent illness so you can stay healthy. CDC

Imagine your local middle school, which houses just over 900 sixth-eighth graders, was built in 1956, with a new wing and a stand alone physical education building constructed in 1975, plus since 1985 a new media center.

Consider your four-year high school constructed in 1976 and renovated in 2000 is home to 1,050 students.

Now try to visualize the sets of students’ restrooms in the main hall of a middle or junior high school, those near the cafeteria, and positioned in three other academic wings, in the locker room, or in the front area of a stand-alone gym.


U and School Restrooms
Part of the Virus, OR
Part of Wellness

When school reopens sometime in the 2020-2021 academic year, one part of your school needs improvement and whether you are a student, parent, custodian, nutrition staff, assistant principal, teacher, or principal YOU can do something about students’ restrooms.

And your school already has words and two structures in place – the words are in a wellness policy and the means includes a district and school-wide wellness committee.

You can read the policy in the district’s policy manual. You can request to be on the committee and you can improve the wellness policy by focusing on your schools’ current conditions in the restrooms including those near the cafeteria, in academic sections of the building, in the gym lobby, and in the locker rooms.

You can write a sentence to put into the policy and you can request, no insist, that the restroom is safe, clean, and hygienic. At all times the student restrooms should have tissue, soap, towels, and receptacles for feminine products and general paper trash.

For the past 10 years, Project CLEAN has kept up with Federal laws and regulations about local school wellness policies. For more information, contact Dr. Tom Keating – keating.projectclean@gmail.com - 404.694.2905.

Public school restrooms in a post COVID-19 world have to change. You can make student restrooms healthier.

How will these secondary public school restrooms function in a post Covid-19 world?

This article concentrates on our country’s 32,294 middle and high schools and their restrooms for 11-18 year old students. These spaces are historically either nice or nasty.

For the last twenty-five years in Georgia and 20 other states, as well as in Germany and several other countries, I have worked with caring educators, students, custodians, administrators, and parents so that all school restrooms especially in middle and high schools would be clean, sanitary, and well-stocked.

Whenever the coronavirus pandemic subsides or ends and all children return to their schools, what do we want these restrooms to be like a month or several months after school begins again?

How students and adults should act in your actual buildings is very real and doable.

First – Soap.

There should be soap in each restroom all day and custodians should restock at 6 and 11am, and 2pm and 6pm, if there are night games and activities.

Second – Water.

Every sink should flow with warm or at least cold water.

Third – Towels.

Every restroom should have hand drying towels or automatic dryers or both. Towels should be restocked as above or whenever necessary.

Fourth – Signage.

At a minimum, signs made by students with help from art and health teachers, should be messages about flushing, washing hands, and stashing trash. Custodians and administrators should install these signs and set up a vandalism account if necessary.

Fifth – Assistant Principals.

An assigned assistant principal should walk the building daily and thoroughly look into both gender’s restrooms to ensure they are supplied, clean, and functioning.

Sixth – Student Governments.

Every student government and class officers should meet and discuss how to work with fellow students to foster more respect for custodians and restrooms.

Seventh – Contests.

Since most middle and high school students do not sing “Happy Birthday,” or recite their “ABCs” when they hurriedly wash their hands after peeing or pooping in the restroom, the school district should sponsor school contests supported by business-in-education partners and compose a song for 20 second hand washing.

Eighth – PTAs.

Each PTA, PTO, or PTSA should establish a Building and Grounds subcommittee on “school restrooms” to address each schools needs and to engage parents in the home-school issues of sanitation and citizenship.

Ninth – Vending machines.

Ten percent of the take from school vending machines should go for sanitary gel to be positioned throughout the gym, lobbies, fields, and cafeteria.

Tenth – Orientation.

During orientation, every fifth grader should have a session about expectations concerning restrooms in their next school. When those students physically enter middle school, they should be reoriented with the same expectation, including what consequences will befall both positive and negative behavior.

Either we will make these restroom adjustments in our school practices, or we will rhetorically clutter our schools with more verbiage about school climate and culture and avoid the practical work on sanitation and citizenship.

Each of these suggestions has been done in actual schools. These recommendations are not about flattening the curve or the wave. They are about strengthening the will.

Tom Keating, Ph.D., is the coordinator and founder of Project CLEAN, and has been an advocate for better school restrooms since 1995. His career as classroom teacher, school district lobbyist, school board member, and author spans forty-five years.

Article first printed in Fitzwire 6 May 2020. Fritzwire is the most widely read education email newsletter in the country and has been nicknamed “Education Watercooler." If you want to receive it, send an email to fritz@publicprivateaction.com.