Towns’ health depts. take close look at school bathrooms

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MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The Maplewood Health Department recently completed an inspection of the Columbia High School bathrooms after Deputy Mayor Frank McGehee, who is chairman of the Board of Health, requested at a Nov. 7 Township Committee meeting that an inspection be conducted. In addition, the South Orange Health Department inspected the schools in the village, which include South Orange Middle School, South Mountain Elementary School, South Mountain Elementary School Annex, Marshall Elementary School and the Montrose Early Childhood Center.

According to the Maplewood Health Department inspection report, which was obtained by the News-Record through an Open Public Records Act request, the CHS bathrooms were found to be “well-maintained,” though the report cited repairs that should be made. The inspection was done on Nov. 9 by Maplewood Health Officer Robert Roe along with Maplewood Public Health Supervisor Candice Davenport, Business Administrator Paul Roth, school district supervisor of buildings and grounds Peter Romain, custodian supervisor Ronald Eraz and.

“One major aspect of concern is that in certain lavatories, students are vandalizing the facilities, (i.e. Kicking off/knocking off toilet paper roll dispensers or soap dispensers),” the report reads. “At one particular location, the equipment is knocked off and then thrown out the window into the second floor roof where custodians have had to go out on the roof and clean it up.”

According to the report, when damage to equipment or supplies in the bathrooms is reported, custodians refill them or install new dispensers.

In addition, the Maplewood report marked several bathrooms in the A-1 and D wings, where students often smoke, as areas of concern.

“This is an issue that is beyond the scope of the facilities inspection but will need to be addressed and abated,” the report reads.

The facilities that the Maplewood Health Department found to be of the most concern were the girls’ locker room, the bathrooms located near the cafeteria and the one “universal access” restroom. Renovations to the locker room are part of the bond request that the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education approved at its Nov. 19 meeting. According to the report, the sinks will be replaced in the next month and the facilities department will repaint during the holiday break in December.

The items that need repairs, as cited in the report, at CHS are: in the B-1 faculty bathroom, no hot water; in the A-1 faculty bathroom, no hot water and a broken ceiling tile; in the A-1 girls’ bathroom, a broken ceiling tile; in the D-1 boys’ bathroom, lighting issues and graffiti; in the D-1 faculty bathroom, no cold water; in the D-1 girls’ bathroom, lighting issues and a broken right sink; in the ground-level boys’ bathroom, graffiti on the window; in the ground-level girls’ bathroom, peeling paint, a broken toilet seat and a non-operational handicapped sink; in the A-3 faculty bathroom, slow toilet drainage; in the A-3 girls’ bathroom, lighting issues above the sinks; in the D-3 boys’ bathroom, “constant vandalism” leading to “constant replacement” of toilet roll dispensers and hand sanitizers; in the D-3 girls’ bathroom, a broken sink; in the D-2 girls’ bathroom, issues requiring repainting; in the D-2 faculty bathroom, ventilation issues; in the D-2 boys’ bathroom, issues requiring repainting and a musty odor; in the A-2 boys’ bathroom, vandalism; in the A-2 faculty bathroom, no cold water; and in the B-2 universal access bathroom, no hot water.

In its inspection of South Orange’s schools, the South Orange Health Department said there were no hygiene issues or odors detected, but did suggest repairs for the schools that were inspected. The South Orange inspection report is available on the village website.

“Paper and soap dispensers were filled with supplies and working, the water temperature was measured in all of the bathrooms,” the report, prepared by South Orange Health Officer John Festa on Nov. 14, read. “Some ceiling tiles and light covers were missing. Some faucets were not functioning but there was running water in all bathrooms. Evidence of vandalism, such as scratching off fresh painted areas and wall damage, was present.”

At SOMS, the bathrooms on the first, second and third floors have ceiling and wall tiles missing, in addition to leaking faucets and broken toilet seats. Vandalism was also found in nearly all of the bathrooms on the first, second and third floors. The inspection at South Mountain found that in the first-floor girls’ bathroom and in the ground-floor boys’ bathroom a vent cover is missing; stall walls are peeling paint in the second-floor boys’ bathroom; and a drain cover is missing in the first-floor boys’ bathroom. One sink in the girls’ bathroom at the South Mountain Annex does not have hot water, and a light is out in each the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms.

At Marshall, in the second-floor girls’ bathroom, the hot water temperature is below standards. Three sinks in the first-floor girls’ bathroom need new faucets, in addition to lights that need new covers. Peeling paint was also found in both of the boys’ bathrooms on the first floor. The only repair that needs to be done at Montrose is a small crack in the wall on the ground-floor student bathroom.

“All of the repairs recommended in the inspection reports have been completed, other than the larger, more involved items which are incorporated into the Long Range Facilities Plan,” Suzanne Turner, the district’s communications director, told the News-Record in a Nov. 27 email.

Photos Courtesy of Maplewood and South Orange health departments