Saturday, June 16, 2018
Education

Pasco schools purchase emergency portable toilets for every class

TRINITY — The Seven Spring Middle School eighth-graders warily eyed the white plastic bucket.

Is it for carrying cleaning supplies? Moving mulch?

Then they noticed the black plastic seat on top. Their eyebrows raised, their noses crinkled, as it dawned on them that this was a portable toilet, designed for use during emergency lockdowns in classrooms without restrooms.

"It's a terrible idea," Justin Anahory, 14, said, shaking his head. "No. I'm not going to use it."

"Never. Unh-uh," agreed Sydney Steele, also 14. "I would just hold it."

What if the students had no choice but to remain in their classroom for long hours for, say, extended hurricane conditions?

"I doubt a hurricane would keep us here a couple of days," Sydney said, noting she hardly will use the school bathrooms, much less a mini portable potty behind a tarp wall held up with duct tape.

"It might be a good idea," chimed in Mariah Guy, 15. "But it's still disgusting."

In recent months, the Pasco County school district has been distributing these "emergency response classroom kits" to schools that don't have restrooms adjoining the classrooms. For the most part, that means middle and high schools.

So far, they've given out 2,249, with another 552 remaining in the district warehouse. The total cost for the kits, which also include toilet paper, hand wipes, trash bags and latex gloves, was $64,876, or about $23 each. The money came from a two-year federal emergency management grant.

The Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas school districts have not made similar investments, and have no plans to do so.

"Along the food chain, that's probably somewhere below an amoeba," Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.

Pasco's grant also has paid for the emergency response plans revisions, and for other supplies such as bottled water and first aid kits. Student services director Lizette Alexander said it has helped the district improve its readiness.

"Try not to make it a joke," Alexander said of the bucket toilets. "When it is needed, it is needed terribly. It is not a joke. It is preparedness."

Still, it did create some laughter among Seven Springs middle schoolers as they discussed its pros and cons. Most had not seen the kits before and didn't know they were in the school.

Eighth-grader Brandan Comito, 14, sized up the bucket and wondered about its weight capacity.

He sat on it and found it held him up, but complained about the seat being too small.

"It needs to be thicker," he said, drawing chuckles from friends, who also wanted to test it out.

The kids engaged in detailed conversations about the logistics of the potty, ranging from concerns about germs to the aesthetics of such a bucket in mixed company.

"What if it gets filled to the top?" asked seventh-grader Kylie Renzetti, 12.

"It could be used as a weapon" against any intruder causing a lockdown, responded eighth-grader Dylan Johnson, 14.

Seventh-grader Devin Bird was not alone in his inability to get past the notion that kids might have to use the contraption "in front of people," never mind the tarp.

"It's a bit weird," he said.

Perhaps so, acknowledged schools superintendent Kurt Browning, who only learned Tuesday of the kits ordered by the previous administration. The buckets have been the brunt of jokes on Facebook since they arrived in schools.

But "if you've got to go," he said, "you've got to go."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek.

Comments
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18
Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

BROOKSVILLE — Historic Camp Perry is where it’s at. Located near Clinton, Ohio, the National Guard training facility is where the nation’s top shooters go to compete.Next week, some of Hernando County’s top shooters compete there in the Civilian Mark...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18
An ambitious new goal for Hillsborough schools: Every child up to speed on reading by third grade

An ambitious new goal for Hillsborough schools: Every child up to speed on reading by third grade

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins has an ambitious new goal. He wants more students to be proficient in reading."I think it is the code to crack," Eakins said in an interview. He also told the School Board on Tuesday that ...
Published: 06/08/18
Pinellas teachers union endorses School Board candidates, steering clear of incumbents

Pinellas teachers union endorses School Board candidates, steering clear of incumbents

As three Pinellas County School Board members try to hold onto their seats this summer, the teachers’ union will throw its weight behind new blood. The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association endorsed each incumbent in 2014, but PCTA president Mike G...
Published: 06/07/18