By Jillian Ward

The World (Coos Bay)

NORTH BEND — By Monday, the North Bend High School will have seven gender-neutral bathrooms.

The North Bend School District approved to spend $8,000 on one staff bathroom that had fallen into disarray, renovating it to become one of the gender-neutral, or single-use, bathrooms. The money was approved after the Gay-Straight Alliance Club asked if something could be done to improve it.

“The bathroom was used for many years and, with the awareness that we need a safe setting for all kids, the GSA Club in December asked why we don’t do something so it’s not a ‘haunted house,’” Darrell Johnston, NBHS principal, said.

After approving the project, the district arranged for the renovation to be done over spring break and hired McCormick and Son Construction, a company already hired to do work on the district office.

“Since spring break started … they gutted it, stripped everything out of there down to the studs,” Johnston said. “Even the plumbing came out.”

Steven Bush, site supervisor with McCormick and Son, said the bathroom had tin tiles and wall materials from the 1960s.

“We’ve lowered the ceiling so it is more up to date,” he said.

The GSA Club is painting one of the other single-use bathrooms, which is in the common hallway of the front building.

“They will finish painting it gray and do some graphics like geometric lines,” Johnston said. “Take all the GSA, transgender issues aside, various kids have some health issues that need their own private space that use these bathrooms, too.”

According to Johnston, the idea to have single-use bathrooms came from former principal Bill Lucero.

“He started it when we had a student going through a transition three years ago,” Johnston said. “He developed a strategy to help the student feel safe, and they preferred a private space rather than their gender bathroom.”

As for the GSA students behind these latest bathroom renovations, Johnston said the project has been an important one for them.

“They are very casual about the conversation,” he said. “They said, ‘We can survive,’ but when they made the request and then the district jumped on it, it meant a lot to them.”

The high school also did work on the new trade building and the gym over spring break. “There’s a lot going on here,” Johnston said.