MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Muskegon’s new middle school will do away with boys and girls bathrooms.
The future Charles Hackley Middle School, which broke ground Tuesday, will have all gender-neutral bathrooms.
“They’re not going to be traditionally labeled like ‘male’ and ‘female’, they’re going to be open for anyone to use,” Superintendent Matthew Cortez said.
The idea, Cortez said, came after hearing from students in the LGBTQ community who said they struggle choosing which facility to use.
He believes they will be the first school in the state to have all gender-neutral bathrooms.
“I’m extremely proud,” he said. “Some people view it different ways. What I view it as is at home it doesn’t matter who uses our bathroom, it’s male and female. We both use it. This is the same concept. Kids need to feel comfortable. They need to feel like they belong inside of a building and if our design can achieve that then we have the responsibility to it.”
Instead of having dividers between stalls, he said each toilet will be in its own closed-door room, with sinks in a common area.
The new building will also include state-of-the-art safety features, like hidden stairwells to use in the case of an evacuation and secure classroom doors designed to keep an intruder out.
“We’ve minimized the window size of the (classroom) door so they’re not easily compromised,” Cortez said. “We’ve also strategically designed the outside windows so even if you were to bust the outside window you can’t get into the school unless you have like a ladder or something of that nature, so it’d be blatantly obvious.”
He said these safety features are designed to slow down a school shooter, even if it’s just a few minutes.
“Let’s say I buy three minutes and the police are on the scene in a minute and a half,” Corte said. “That’s three minutes that my kids can shelter in the room and get out of the doorway and be able to barricade the door, because the number one thing we need to do is put brick and mortar between them and what’s trying to hurt them.”
The three-story building will have a floor designated for each grade.
“We are able to put sixth grade on one floor, seventh grade (on another) and then eighth grade, so we’re able to give the kids their own area to exist within their age group,” Cortez said.
Cortez said the district last built a new building in 1959, which serves as the current middle school located on Amity Avenue.
“You’re talking 60 or 70 years that we’re using buildings, so what is going to happen in the next 60 or 70 years that’s going to be the groundwork for what we should be preparing for our students and our staff.”
Set to be complete in January 2024, the $35 million dollar project is funded by a bond passed by voters in 2020.
Centrally located at the intersection of Peck Street and Laketon Avenue, the school is being built on Hackley Hospital’s former campus. Mercy Health donated the land to the district after demolishing the old hospital.