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Glendale Unified agrees to installation of temporary restrooms at Monte Vista Elementary

Monta Vista Elementary School in La Crescenta Valley on Monday, March 25, 2019. Parents with childre
Portable restrooms and classroom changes are in the works at Monte Vista Elementary School as the Glendale Unified board agreed to those two steps this month.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Portable restrooms and classroom changes are in the works at Monte Vista Elementary School after the Glendale Unified board voted 5-0 recently to install modular bathrooms next fall and move all kindergarten students away from bungalows and into permanent classrooms due, in part, to parental complaints.

The district committed $255,000 in developer-fee funding on May 7 to install a 12-foot-by-40-foot portable restroom facility to be used by students and staff.

“This is an urgent need, and it needs to be addressed now,” board member Shant Sahakian said. “We have to also make sure that things this essential are proactively addressed moving forward with other school sites as well.”

The new building, to be located at the campus’ southeast corner near many of the school’s bungalows, will have boys’ and girls’ restrooms on opposite sides and a unisex staff unit in between.

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Boys will have access to two toilets, two urinals and two sinks, girls will have three toilets and two sinks, while the smaller staff restroom will have one toilet and one sink.

“For me, a restroom, we just can’t avoid that,” board member Armina Gharpetian said. “I don’t know how we handled it without a restroom being close by.”

The vote came two months after parents filed a document known as a Williams complaint against the school, which affords the district 60 days to resolve an issue and complete a written report.

A Williams complaint can be filed for various reasons, such as a school lacking textbooks or instructional materials or facility problems that create problem issues with health and safety.

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Some Monte Vista parents claimed inadequate restroom access created an urgent threat for some students, primarily those in the school’s dual-immersion Korean-language program. They also cited overcrowding and poor planning as a driving force.

Issues for older students centered on lengthy distances from restrooms and an inadequate number of stalls.

The Williams complaint stated 10 classrooms that served roughly 128 female students, mostly in the rear bungalows at the school, were out of compliance because students had access to only one restroom with three stalls.

That ratio would leave one stall per 43 girls, short of the California standard of one stall for 30 girls.

Students in the back bungalows also have to traverse considerable distances, including girls in Elizabeth Nakano’s third-grade class, room No. 8107, who walk roughly 100 yards to the nearest restroom.

“We need better things at school,” said Lorelei Doudian, a student in Nakano’s class. “The walk is too far to go to the bathroom. The walk, for me, takes about 15 minutes.”

Doudian added, “We need a classroom, not a bungalow. The heater and air-conditioning don’t always work, sometimes the [electric outlets] don’t work, and we’re all crowded.”

New portable restrooms would be installed next to the southeast bungalows.

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Hagop Kassabian, the school district’s new administrator of planning, development and facilities, said the new restrooms should be installed within six months.

Maybe the most notable objection made in the Williams complaint was that some dual-immersion kindergartners were urinating on themselves, while others reverted to using pull-up diapers.

Parents claimed kindergartners had to walk too far to restrooms or were uncomfortable using bigger toilets, while others were said to be bullied by older students.

While district officials have consistently said they have never seen any evidence to support those assertions, the board decided to move dual-immersion kindergartens from bungalows to permanent classrooms starting in the fall.

The move will allow all kindergartners access to age-appropriate facilities.

School board members expressed a desire to find more permanent solutions in the future.

Deborah Pasachoff, who has two children who attend Monte Vista Elementary and who spoke at the May 7 meeting, said she hopes the portable-restroom facility is the start of change that will lead to the eventual removal of all bungalows from the campus.

“We do really appreciate you considering the bathroom and that does address a very immediate need, but it’s not enough,” Pasachoff said. “We have students in these bungalows that are not living what… education standards are.”

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