CLARK, NJ - While students and teachers soaked up the summer sun during the months of July and August, a crew of contractors and plumbers were redoing Arthur L. Johnson High School's most infamous rooms: the downstairs bathrooms.

“One of the biggest concerns that came out of the Middle States survey that students took two years ago was the dissatisfaction of the condition of the bathrooms,” Principal Richard Delmonaco explained. “Which is why they were selected to be improved.”

Improved they were: brand new stalls, toilets, sinks, and tiling greeted students once September came around. News of the redone bathrooms spread through the student body, causing freshmen and seniors alike to want to view the so-called "masterpiece" for themselves.

Sign Up for E-News

“It’s like stepping into a different dimension,” junior Natalie Palmiere commented, in awe of the construction workers’ job well done. The striking new doors add to the effect of the redesigned bathrooms.

Other new features include automatically flushing toilets, state-of-the-art hand dryers, and new mirrors.

After surveying a handful of boys and girls from all grades, most said their favorite feature was the new toilets.  However, multiple girls criticized the mirrors, saying they do not reflect sharp, clear images. In addition, the girls miss the full-length mirror that leaned against the wall right near the entrance to the bathroom, which was used to check the state of their hair and outfit simultaneously before stepping back out into the hallways to face their peers.

How did the Board of Education get the money to cover all these new features? Delmonaco supplied an answer: “Mr. Oliveira (school business administrator) was able to secure a grant called a ROD (Regular Operating District) Grant from the State of New Jersey. Essentially with this grant the school district receives 40% of the cost for a project that is accepted through the grant program from the state.” 

The ROD grant was centered on health and safety improvements, and the bathrooms fell under this category. The cost of the bathroom was nearly halved for the school district, which only had to pay for 60% of the costs as opposed to 100%. “Whenever we can get 40% of the cost covered, it is worth it,” said Delmonaco.

The new bathrooms have been a huge hit. All students surveyed reported liking the new bathrooms much more than the old ones, citing cleaner and more up-to-date facilities. Delmonaco thinks that the students seem to be taking better care of the new facilities and keeping them cleaner than in the past. 

The improvements aren't expected to stop at ALJ. “I believe the plan is to remodel bathrooms next year at Kumpf and the elementary schools,” Delmonaco explained.

With the same crew involved in the redesign process, it is safe to say Kumpf, Hehnly, and Valley Road will be far from disappointed with the results.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in "The Crusader," ALJ's student newspaper and republished here with permission. Kelly Vena is a student reporter.