Construction on Wilson High School’s new multi-million dollar aquatic center is set to begin next summer – kicking off a streak of five high school swimming pools that Long Beach Unified will eventually build – but the final designs recently released apparently irritated some parents over a gender-neutral locker room project.
Wilson High Aquatic Center, which is slated to be ready by next school year, is budgeted at $ 23 million and will include a new outdoor pool and spectator seating.
But the complex will also have a mixed changing room.
This means that rather than having changing rooms for boys and girls, students will use the same facilities regardless of their gender identity.
The changing room will include 58 individual changing rooms, as well as individual showers and toilets. The facility will have a common space, where students will gather to wait for a stand to open so that they can change or shower. Private booths could pose a challenge to changing large groups of students in time for competitions and the common room – where students of all genders meet – could create security concerns, at least one reviewer says .
On Monday, November 29, officials from the Long Beach Unified School District said the All-Gender Locker Room was supposed to provide a safe environment for all students.
Students, LBUSD officials added, were almost unanimous in saying they were uncomfortable using the shared showers and changing rooms that have long been the norm in high schools.
But opposition to the plan can grow.
While it’s not known how many parents are against the gender-neutral locker room, at least one – who also happens to be a volunteer trainer at Wilson – recently emailed community members criticizing the facility. .
And LBUSD has scheduled a virtual community meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30, to provide information and answer questions. The meeting will be broadcast on the district’s YouTube page and people can ask questions through a Google link that will be available.
A related item is on the agenda for the LBUSD School Board meeting – at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1 – where materials and services for the construction of Wilson and Lakewood High Schools will be reviewed for approval.
âGender-Friendly Facilities affirms our commitment to providing a safe and productive learning environment for all students,â said David Miranda, Executive Director of Facilities Development and Planning at LBUSD. âWilson’s inclusive locker room will also benefit students of diverse genders and students with disabilities, including students who need the assistance of a caregiver of a different gender. “
Gender is different from a person’s biological sex. People are generally born biologically male or female. But an individual’s gender identity may differ from the sex assigned to them at birth – and may not even fit traditional descriptions of male and female.
Wilson High’s volunteer coach Katie Rowe said in her email that the gender-neutral locker room – which she described as “mixed” – violates standards of safe sports for student-athletes and exposes supervisors to legal liability because they keep an eye on the students will be difficult if not impossible.
âThe problem is, mixed locker rooms ELIMINATE students from being able to change in the open,â she wrote. âIt’s probably not as much of a problem during physical education class. However, for our sports teams, this is a HUGE PROBLEM.
But Evelyn Somoza, deputy spokesperson for LBUSD, said the inclusive facilities stemmed from two years of discussions, including contributions from students and coaches from across the district.
While the final designs were released recently, the concept of inclusive facilities was presented to the school board in August 2020, she said.
“The district’s decision to include inclusive facility plans aligns with the district’s values ââof equity and inclusion,” Somoza wrote in a statement, “while taking into account a campaign led by students who called for equitable access to school facilities for all students.
Rowe, in her email, said the facility would likely be adequate for physical education classes, but she was still concerned about mixing boys and girls in a locker room atmosphere.
Somoza, however, said the gender locker room would actually increase the staff’s ability to supervise students.
âStudent safety and privacy, as well as supervision of staff have been carefully considered in the inclusive design of Wilson’s locker rooms,â she said. “The locker room is accessible to staff of all sexes, giving Wilson an increased ability to supervise students.”
Rowe also said the dressing room could prove problematic during competitions.
Some of these competitions, including the Moore League Championship, can bring together around 250 athletes.
They’ll all be competing for the same stands, Rowe said – with limited time to change.
âSo if we have around 80 to 100 girls that need 15 to 20 minutes to put on a costume and we have 58 stalls,â she said. âThis calculation does not work. “
The 10 shower stalls and the nine toilet stalls in the current design would be inadequate, she said.
LBUSD could also face liability issues if teachers or coaches see naked or half-naked children, Rowe said, although this also appears to be an issue in unisex locker rooms.
The planned shower stalls, Somoza said, are large enough for students to shower and change into street clothes before returning to the common area.
The locker room, meanwhile, is an example of LBUSD being a leader in gender-neutral designs, Somoza said – something the state has seized on as well.
âThis month, the California Department of Education announced the formation of a committee that will help develop recommendations to expand the availability of gender-neutral toilets on California school campuses,â Somoza said. âThere is no state requirement that single-sex locker rooms should have individual locker rooms and showers. “