Local high school boosters welcome news of stadium restroom funding
Note: The article was updated on Oct. 21 to include additional information about the construction timeline from FCPS.
With the news last week that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved $7.5 million in funding for permanent restroom facilities at 15 public high school stadiums, the presidents of two local volunteer organizations that support student athletes shared a common sense of relief, joy and gratitude.
Jennifer Molden, who’s entering her second year as president of the Mount Vernon High School (MVHS) Athletic Booster Club, said club members are excited about the new restrooms, which are “long overdue.”
Schools that lack outdoor plumbing and restrooms typically have to pay over $7,000 per year to rent portable toilets, according to Molden. “We have three to five at MVHS, and that’s not enough,” she said.
During the May 24 BOS meeting when the issue was brought up as a Board Matter by Chairman Jeff McKay, he called the need for restrooms “a matter of equity,” adding that they should be a standard — “not a matter of where you live or where you’re scheduled on the capital improvement program.”
Lack of equity in resources and opportunities has long been a sore spot for many MVHS families, several of whom made their views known at the recent listening session with the new Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) superintendent. Molden agreed with their assessment.
“We do feel the neglect in many, many areas besides the restroom issue,” she said.
Molden’s counterpart at West Potomac High School also is keenly aware of the disparities between some FCPS high school sports facilities and the ones in Southeast Fairfax County. As co-president of the Wolverine Athletic Booster Club since this past June, Kevin Jones said the differences among the facilities are “eye-opening.”
“As co-president, I travel and take a critical eye to other schools,” said Jones. “I see other schools’ upgraded facilities and how neglected ours are.”
West Potomac did secure some additional porta-potties this year, noted Jones, including one accessible toilet, and the school has implemented a more aggressive cleaning rotation. But Jones still sees disparities. West Potomac’s Jeffrey Dietze Stadium could use an upgraded entry gate and concessions area, and other county schools have upgraded turf, he noted.
Starting back in 2021, BOS Chair McKay began brainstorming with other county and community stakeholders — among others, Karen Corbett Sanders, the Fairfax County School Board’s Mount Vernon District representative; Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck; and Braddock District School Board Representative Megan McLaughlin — about the restroom issue. According to Corbett Sanders, they came up with the idea for a modular structure that could be quickly and affordably constructed. The preliminary design envisions a total of 12 stalls for men and women, including an accessible stall with a family changing room. The structure’s design also allows for the add-on of concessions, she said.
“Our schools should be centers for our community and allow us to be competitive and proud of their outward appearances,” said Corbett Sanders. “I’m very excited about this.”
Equity, school pride and the potential to generate more income and economic opportunity are all seen as benefits of installing dedicated stadium restrooms. At the Mount Vernon Majors’ football games against the Wolverines — a key Route 1 rivalry — the school stadiums could host more people if they had the proper facilities, said Molden.
“We could host regional bids in our facilities,” she said. “We like to show pride.”
Jones also sees the potential for bigger and better events with the new restrooms. “West Potomac has enormous fan support,” he said. “We bring a lot of attendance.”
The stadium restrooms, which are being co-funded by FCPS, are currently in the early design phase, according to an FCPS spokesperson. That phase will be followed by permitting with Fairfax County. The current schedule foresees a public bid advertisement for construction/installation of the pre-fabricated structures in fall 2023. Once awarded, it's expected to take about two years to complete construction at all 15 sites, said the spokesperson.
Jones credited Corbett Sanders, Storck, West Potomac Principal Tangy Millard and his predecessors at the booster club for their commitment to making improvements at the stadium.
“This is an enormous perk for West Potomac,” he said.
Molden is in firm agreement. “Mount Vernon is full of pride, and we ride on the coattails of that. Beautification of our facilities is absolutely at the top of our list,” she said.