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Hanover to build elementary school with no gendered bathrooms

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The Hanover County Public Schools division will be among the first in Virginia to build a school with no gendered bathrooms.

Designers presented final renderings of the new John M. Gandy Elementary at a Hanover County School Board meeting last week.

There will be individual toilet rooms in every wing on every floor for second through fifth grades. Each stall has complete privacy, with partitions from the ceiling to the floor with no gaps, according to designers from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh, & Associates.

Sinks will be located in an open area in the hallways.

“When you’re washing your hands, you’re combing your hair, you’re doing anything else, you’re doing that in the quarter,” said designer Joshua Bower at the meeting. “There’s really no ‘behind the wall’ except for when you’re doing things that are very private.”

For grades kindergarten and first grade, there will be individual toilet rooms inside each classroom. In the cafeteria and in the gymnasium on the main floor, there will be multiple stall toilet rooms, according to Bower.

According to an HCPS spokesperson, the design team does not expect a deviation in costs or construction timeline for this design versus a more traditional design.

“The goal of this design is to increase student safety and decrease potential damage to the bathrooms,” said HCPS spokesman Chris Whitley.

The new Gandy Elementary School in Ashland, on track for a 2024-25 school year opening, will be among the first K-12 schools in Virginia to have only gender-neutral bathrooms available. It is the first school constructed in Hanover County since Laurel Meadow Elementary opened in 2008.

At the School Board meeting, Mechanicsville District representative John E. Redd Jr. asked about restrooms at the schools in regards to “the policy.”

The school division has been involved in a 10-month controversy that began when its School Board did not put into place Virginia Department of Education guidelines regarding the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students, as school boards were legally required to do by the start of school, following a 2020 state law.

John M. Gandy Elementary

A rendering of the John M. Gandy Elementary in Ashland is shown. 

The board took a vote in November, which covered some parts of the requirements but stopped short at the more contentious transgender bathroom policy, which would have explicitly allowed transgender students to use bathrooms that aligned with their identity.

Though lawsuits and threats ensued, the Hanover School Board did not change its policies. In March, the board through a 4-3 vote allowed a conservative organization with established anti-LGBTQ views to review its equal educational opportunities policy.

Redd said in an interview that the design for a school with completely gender-neutral bathrooms is a “possible solution.”

“We don’t want to show favoritism to one [side] over another, we just got to live by what the courts are telling us we’ve got to do and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Redd said. “Everybody’s got their own personal opinions, but your personal opinion can’t necessarily rule when you’re a member of the School Board or when you’re a member of the Board of Supervisors. You got to follow the law. You got to represent all people and that’s kind of what we’re trying to do.”

abryson@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6945

Twitter: @AnnaBryson18

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