High School To Address Facility Concerns Following Difficult Year

JohnCarl McGrady •

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The Nantucket High School has been plagued by a rash of facilities issues over the last year, as a failing public announcement system, frozen pipes, and severe bathroom vandalism have necessitated costly repairs. As the year draws to a close, students and faculty alike have expressed frustration, annoyance, and even concern over school safety.

While bathroom vandalism has received the most coverage, the PA system has some students the most concerned. For years, it has been inconsistent, glitching occasionally and difficult to hear in many classrooms.

Recently however, the technical problems have increased. Announcements made over the system, as well as the bells that tell students when classes start and end, have often been inaudible throughout the building. This has led to several students being late to class and has prompted security concerns since the PA system is used to relay emergency messages during potential school crises.

Junior Quinn Keating confirmed that the PA system has been non-functional “most of the time” in recent months and worried that “if something bad did happen, we would have no way of knowing about it, aside from our friends or teachers telling us.”

English teacher and Nantucket Teacher’s Association Co-President Page Martineau added that even when the PA system works, announcements are hard to hear in some rooms.

“That’s a real security concern,” she said.

Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Hallett acknowledged that the PA system needs significant work. She said that NHS has been working with electrician Brian Potter to fix it.

“Every time he is available we are bringing him in to make adjustments,” she said.

Hallett wants to try to repair the existing system before replacing it as that could cost “tens of thousands of dollars.”

The PA system is far from the only facilities issue NHS has faced recently. The bathroom vandalism has received significant news coverage, but no report has yet revealed the full extent of the damage done to NHS bathrooms.

Throughout the year, red dye was sprayed in the bathrooms, soap and paper towel dispensers were stolen and dropped in toilets, faucets were ripped off of sinks, and hand sanitizer units were lifted and placed on top of bathroom stalls. Additionally, soap was smeared across the bathroom floors, the cream filling of Oreo sandwich cookies was stuck to the walls, and a menstrual pad was affixed to the ceiling of one restroom for well over a week.

At one point, an entire door was missing from one bathroom stall. Toilets were also repeatedly clogged intentionally throughout the year with substances such as pottery clay, cat litter and plastic diapers, resulting in multiple sewer leaks and causing an early dismissal after widespread plumbing issues caused sewage to spill across a hallway and flood the basement.

Some of the vandalism was explicitly hateful. Students reported swastikas and homophobic slurs carved into the bathroom stalls. There were toilet paper dispensers, as well sexist slurs and various crude drawings, scrawled on the bathroom walls. The vandalism has also reached beyond the bathrooms and beyond NHS, with similar instances reported in the intermediate and middle schools, red dye squirted across the playground, and a swastika found carved into a desk in one classroom.

The vandalism, which was initially spurred by a TikTok challenge known as “Devious Licks,” but has continued throughout the school year unabated despite the challenge fading from popularity, has cost NHS a significant amount of time and money. It forced NHS into imposing strict preventative measures for large parts of the year.

During the peaks of vandalism, all but two bathrooms in NHS were closed, and those could only be used after signing in with a designated faculty member assigned to monitor their use. These restrictions, as well as the vandalism itself, have fed student and faculty frustration.

“I’m not sure what the purpose is, and I’m really disappointed,” Hallett said. “Why would a student want to do this? Would they do it in their own home?”

Students, led by junior Tony Fox, have dubbed the vandals “the Bathroom Blaster” and put up wanted posters around the school to express their annoyance and encourage students to come forward with information.

“Destroying communal places is for children,” Fox said. But he added that his anger extended to the school, which he felt had overreacted to the vandalism, inconveniencing hundreds of innocent students in an attempt to stop a small number of vandals, and that the Bathroom Blaster posters were also an attempt to satirize the school’s strict response.

The Bathroom Blaster—or, more likely, Blasters—“has not struck in recent weeks,” according to Hallett, but as the school year ends, NHS is staying on high alert for more potential vandalism.

Student vandalism is not the only reason island public schools have closed due to flooding this year. After a severe winter storm took out the heating at the Cyrus Pierce Middle School, water pipes froze and burst, flooding classrooms and drenching teaching materials, and students missed a full day of school as the administration rushed to repair the damages.

The significant facilities issues have not let up all year and students, who received flood days instead of snow days last winter, have noticed.

“It has been a weird year,” Keating said.

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