An earlier version of this article was updated on Nov. 12.
MAPLEWOOD AND SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - At the monthly meeting of the Maplewood Board of Health on Wednesday night, Deputy Mayor Frank McGehee, who is Chair of the Board of Health, asked Health Officer Robert Roe to inspect the bathrooms at the South Orange Maplewood School District schools, citing the Columbia High School (CHS) bathrooms specifically as having been reported to be unsatisfactory.
"It has become knowledgeable to me that they are in unsanitary condition," said McGehee.
Roe said he would inspect all the schools in response to McGehee saying that he has heard of issues at "the middle schools, the lower schools, and the high school."
"The school district needs to handle that immediately," said McGehee.
A CHS student who is a member of the newly-formed Youth Advisory Committee, also addressed the bathrooms at the high school, stating they are "disgusting" and that they often don't have soap or toilet paper, and that the "sinks don’t work."
“Every student at Columbia can agree the bathrooms are not in good condition," said the student representative.
As for next steps, McGehee stated in an email that Roe has been asked to review the bathrooms within the next two weeks and report back.
"Our kids (faculty, and staff) should at minimum have soap and toilet paper assessable when using the bathroom in our schools," stated McGehee.
"Once we know the conditions, we can ask the school district to take action ahead of the pending capital plan," stated McGehee.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum stated in a local Facebook group that the South Orange Health Officer has also been in touch with the schools and will be providing inspections of South Orange schools, as well as conducting periodic inspections in the future.
A spokesperson for the South Orange Maplewood School District provided the following statement on Monday, Nov. 12:
"We conducted inspections of CHS bathrooms on Friday with the Maplewood Health Department and are awaiting their report. We are scheduled to inspect South Orange Schools with the South Orange Health Department this week.
Inspections are a normal part of the maintenance of our schools. The Departments of Health in both towns conduct regular inspections of our facilities. Our building custodial staff examine and clean all bathrooms and other areas daily, and the Maintenance Department performs inspections at each building monthly.
Some of the issues in school bathrooms require major plumbing or building repairs or renovation. These are incorporated into the Health and Safety Renovations portion of the Long Range Facilities Plan."
Editor's note: This article was updated with information from the South Orange Maplewood School District on Nov. 12, and with a clarification regarding which bathrooms the health officers would inspect on Nov. 10.