In this crazy rollercoaster of an economy, cuts are being made everywhere. Educators are on high alert for signs of more job cuts and less funding. So when a local high school requested a $7,700 grant from the Grossmont Healthcare District to fund “emergency restrooms,” it came as no surprise that eyebrows were raised.
Helix Charter High School, a member of the Grossmont High School District, made the request earlier this year after January’s two and a half hour lockdown forced students to use “trash cans and Ziploc bags in lieu of a proper toilet,” according to school officials. Aside from the disgusting visual Helix’s officials have created for us all, the question that really poses itself is: What the heck is an “emergency restroom”?
Upon a little research and much Google searching, there seemed to be no conclusion. Helix officials claim to need 91 kits sold by a company called American Family Safety running approximately $91 each. The kits include food, water, blankets and a portable toilet that closely resembles a Home Depot supply bucket with a lid.
Simple math provides a number sufficiently higher than $7,700, but the website lists the kits at $82, making the grant request $238 more than the cost of the kits. I suppose few readers stop to do the math, but any way I look at it, the numbers make little sense.
Helix has been the burden of the district in recent years with the removal of staff for sex scandals and the near loss of its charter. In February of last year, the district threatened to revoke the charter out of concern for the way the school handled an administrator who harbored a runaway student. The school fought against the possible revocation claiming the district was targeting it for financial reasons and wanted more control of its money. Monetary involvement seems to be a common theme for the high school.
The school in question is one of 11 high schools in the district, and the only one asking for “emergency toilets.” Nine of the schools in the district have been forced into lockdown in the last 10 years. Santana and Granite Hills both had shootings on their campuses in 2001, Monte Vista and El Capitan were put into lockdown last year, and Mount Miguel experienced a lockdown this past March. The two high schools that have yet to endure a locked campus are El Cajon Valley and Valhalla. Helix claims the shutdown of its campus shed light on the importance of emergency equipment, including the toilets, and validates the need for extra funds to support the purchase.
Ten years after a shooting that put two children in early graves, and it has suddenly become a need for schools to “prepare” for better sanitation during such an event? The request seems a bit superfluous.
Grossmont Healthcare appears to agree. It released a statement in early March downplaying the need and availability of a grant. According to La Mesa Patch, “the healthcare district’s Community Grants and Sponsorships Committee — including board members Michael Emerson and Gloria Chadwick — voted to recommend denying the request, partly because a Dec. 31 deadline was missed.” The funds go against an agreement not to fund non-health education programs by other agencies.
My main issue is that if it’s necessary for one school to stock up on potty buckets and emergency toilet paper, then it seems fit for all schools to jump on the kit-buying bandwagon. At $7,700 per school, the funds would wrack up a nearly $35,000 bill with no money in the budget to back it. Unless the PTA or another private agency is willing to front the money to keep the students’ tushies comfortable, I just don’t see the plausibility of the kits. Funding a disaster planning agency seems more useful in the event of tragedy on our local campuses. If a riot breaks out, or a suspect is brandishing a weapon, or another emergency event occurs that puts students in harm’s way, concerned parents and fearful staff members are probably not too worried about the students’ need to “handle their business,” as long as they’re safe.