By Justin Lin
On one particular morning, all the boys of Summit Denali High School were called to meet in the gym. The reason for this? So the school principal could discuss the condition of the boys’ bathroom with them.
Instead of having the chance to work in their mentor groups, students had to listen to the issue of complaints being made about toilet paper left on the ground, sinks being clogged, food lying around and more.
Denali freshman Joshua Dewinter was present at that meeting, which was held on Jan. 14. “It brought up some very good points,” he said. “People have been destroying the bathrooms without any real right to. I don’t see what their reasons are.”
Likewise, Denali junior Kyle Kobetsky said, “It was necessary, but at the same time I don’t think it’s going to do anything. There should be consequences for these actions.”
So what is the main problem? Instead of being thrown away, trash is being left in many places where it shouldn’t be.
“For the most part, a lot of the trash I pick up is pretty accidental,” Denali Dean of Instruction and Culture Allison Roberson said. “A lot of the time I’m picking up after people, but I care a lot about our school. Sometimes it’s intentional, and it’s a little disappointing. People are wasting resources. An example would be filling toilets with toilet paper. This is a resource we’re generally just throwing away.”
Ms. Roberson pointed out that not only is there garbage being left behind, certain resources that are beneficial are also being wasted. She explained how the importance of these resources seemed to be missed by students as these problems continue to happen.
The issue isn’t just something in the bathrooms, it’s also happening in other places in the school. When asked about how often and where he sees trash, Denali Modern World I teacher Sven Engvall said, “Pretty good amount. We don’t do a great job of picking up trash at our campus. Teachers have to pick up after students, which is not our job. The gym can be messy, which affects SDL afterwards. My classroom is often left a mess.”
SDL stands for self-directed learning, which is a time for students to individually catch up or get ahead on schoolwork.
Bathrooms, the gym and classrooms are all places that have an impact on Denali’s cleanliness. The ongoing problem isn’t just something that affects one person, but it’s something that can affect numerous people trying to go about their day.
Aside from the school staff, it can be tough for students to be in a comfortable work environment that allows them to learn and do what they need to do. Denali freshman Sadie Freeman discussed their thoughts on how trash being found has affected their life/work environment.
“In classrooms, a lot of time there’s stuff on the table. It makes it hard for me to focus because I don’t want to touch the garbage,” they said.
Because of trash, students aren’t able to properly function and learn the way they should be able to. Lots of this trash is being left behind in many areas of the school, waiting for teachers to clean up.
With this continuous problem, different solutions and ways of improvement have already been thought up by Denali staff and students. Many people are trying to get serious solutions in place as well.
When asking Summit Denali English I teacher Avery Jones about ways to improve the cleanliness situation, he said, “If at the end of every class we took two minutes or maybe once a week to sanitize; to clean up the classroom. It would be nice if there was one large trash can in the middle of the hallway.”
Having a large trash can in the middle of the hall could allow students to have a better sense of where to throw trash away, as Mr. Jones explained, arguing that this could lessen the amount of garbage being found in the hallway.
“My role is one: demonstrating cleanliness through my actions. Two: keeping my classroom organized and clean. Three: if I see a student creating a mess, it’s holding them accountable for cleaning up that mess. It’s challenging for teachers to know who left the trash and who to hold responsible,” Mr. Jones also said.
Greater accountability for students is essential for a clean future, as Mr. Jones continued to explain. If students aren’t being made sure to be responsible, then they wouldn’t care to put trash in the right places. The problem of cleanliness would be much more of a mess.
Tini Raman, Denali Math I teacher, also shared her thoughts on possible solutions. “We need to hold them back if it’s repeated. Anyone who is supervising; if the supervisor is convinced that the classroom is clean, we can let them go. It’s just anyone who is making a mess,” she said.
Ms. Raman suggested that students shouldn’t be allowed to leave until the classrooms look clean. If this was put into action, students could be more aware of the specific things that are found inside the classroom.
“Revoke privileges, or have actual consequences for the people that are damaging the bathrooms, such as paying,” Kobetsky said when asked about possible solutions to the problem.
With the help of translations from her son, Christopher Cortez, custodian Magda Cortez answered the question of possible improvement by saying, “For the students to pick up trash, like paper and pencils; to not throw toilet paper in the bathrooms but throw away in trash cans.”
Ms. Cortez described actions that students could take, such as picking up even the smallest things. She proposed the idea that if everyone made these actions, the school would be much cleaner.
FEATURED IMAGE (at top of page): Trash can be found in leaf piles outside next to the gates at Summit Denali. PHOTO CREDIT: Justin Lin