Converting MCPS Restrooms to ‘All-Gender’ Could Cost $50K Each

Converting MCPS Restrooms to ‘All-Gender’ Could Cost $50K Each

School board exploring options to accommodate multiple genders

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IMAGE VIA FLICKR: JEFFREY BEALL (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Renovating existing restrooms to accommodate multiple genders at public schools in Montgomery County could cost as much as $50,000 per bathroom, according to information published by the school system.

After a Bethesda mother testified during public comment at a school board meeting earlier this year that her transgender and non-conforming children feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced using school bathrooms, board members asked school system staff to explore how much it would cost to renovate all existing bathrooms into gender-neutral facilities.

Gender-neutral bathrooms generally include a single toilet and sink. All-gender restrooms are designed with several stalls. The parent advocate said all-gender bathrooms would be beneficial for straight students who generally feel a lack of privacy or are bullied at school.

Many county schools already have gender-neutral bathrooms, but the mother said those are often too far out of students’ paths to use conveniently and are stigmatized by other students.

School board members have said they support all-gender bathrooms and would consider installing them during new construction and renovation projects as a more efficient and cost-effective method than re-doing existing bathrooms.

School board documents say the average cost to retrofit an existing restroom with single-occupancy bathrooms is about $25,000, but all-gender configurations are estimated to cost between $40,000 and $50,000 per restroom.

This would involve creating two gender-neutral group restrooms by converting each side of existing girls’ and boys’ bathroom layout, school staff said.

If one bathroom in each of the school system’s 206 schools underwent such a project, it would cost the system about $10.3 million.

“This concept may not be ideal from a safety and security standpoint; however, it does provide multiple single-user toilet options,” according to a memo to school board members.

“An option to create multiple single-user toilet rooms and maintain a high level of safety and security has been explored; however, to create these configurations in existing schools would be cost prohibitive. This level of conversion would consist of a significant change in building infrastructure … and this type of restroom configuration would have to be explored and incorporated in connection with major capital projects.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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