Pilot Bathroom Program Brings Updates to Nine Loudoun Schools

This article originally appeared on Loudoun Now. To view the original article, click here

Nine Loudoun County schools will soon have updated bathrooms as part of the Restroom Privacy and Safety Pilot Program to include single-user bathrooms and sensor technology to detect vaping, smoke and multiple users.

The upgrades are not replacing the multi-use bathrooms that are typically in high schools but add additional bathroom space intended for use by one student at a time, according to the division’s website.

The division began efforts to provide more bathroom privacy in November 2021 after the Virginia Department of Education passed model policies for the treatment of transgender students. Those model policies then prompted the division to pass Policy 8040, which states in part students may use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity.

Model policies issued by the state in 2022 and 2023 model polices call for single-user bathrooms to be made available and be accessible for all students.

Broad Run, Dominion, Heritage, Woodgrove and Loudoun Valley High Schools have all had or will soon have renovated bathrooms, with Dominion, Heritage and Loudoun Valley also getting sensor technology, according to the division’s website.

An email to Woodgrove parents March 1 stated the work was nearly complete with construction barriers being removed over the weekend. It said once the sensors were in place they would notify parents when the program was operational at the school.

Farmwell Station, Sterling Middle School and Park View and Stone Bridge High School also received the sensor technology.

The sensor technology uses multi-functional health, safety and vape detection sensors, according to the division’s website, without giving away any personal information. All bathrooms with the technology will display signs that it is in use.

Sensors will alert for all types of vaping and smoke, aggression or abnormal noise levels like fights, screams, slamming doors, gunshots or other suspicious activity, health emergencies detected when a person says “Help! Emergency!” in English and tampering of the system. It will also detect if more than one person is in the room by using heat sensors. Once someone enters the room, a timer begins, if the person exceeds five minutes an alert will be sent.

According to the division’s website, when a sensor is triggered, the sensor outside that bathroom lights up, an email is sent to a designated school staff member saying what caused the alert, and then the school personnel responds to the bathroom.

Responses will be similar to others for discipline or health emergencies, according to the website.

The sensors are only in single user bathrooms at pilot schools and not in locker rooms or staff bathrooms.

Data collected during the pilot phase will be analyzed and presented to the School Board in June. If there are any modifications or expansions those could be implemented as soon as summer 2024.

The division adopted Policy 8040 Aug. 11, 2021, to be in compliance with the 2021 model policies that centered around rights of transgender and gender expansive students.

In 2021, just after Policy 8040 was implemented, the division spent $427,000 on the first round of renovations to convert spaces to single-user bathrooms. In all during that time, six high schools, four middle school and two elementary school restrooms were converted to include new signs, shower curtains, door hardware and hygiene product dispensers, according to a March 2023 presentation to the School Board.

The School Board’s construction plan in 2023 allotted $10.9 million for restroom renovations.

More information on the bathroom pilot program, including when the participating schools will have operational upgraded bathrooms will be sent to the community once they are ready, according to division spokesperson Dan Adams in an email.

For more information on the pilot program go to lcps.org/restrooms.