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The Weight On Our Shoulders

By Abigail Loor & KarinAlyse Heck

Lockers in the 11th Grade History room at East Side Community High School

(Photo taken in December 2021)

Binders, notebooks, and folders are the main supplies high school students are asked to carry, sometimes one of each for every class. Student bags tend to become burdensome with all the weight. The solution to this problem was the installation of lockers in schools.

Most schools contain rows of lockers in their hallways, providing every student with access to them between classes or before and after school, essentially whenever they need it. But what happens when not every school has the resources or space to provide every student with a locker?

The Locker Situation at East Side

At East Side Community School, the student to locker ratio is incredibly unbalanced. Only a handful of students from every grade have access to a locker. When asked why that is, the Principal, Mark Federman, explained that the building was originally built to be an elementary school, which explains the narrow hallways. Shortly after the school became a middle school, some lockers had been installed in classrooms, but not all of them. By the time the building became a middle school and high school, there was no way to add lockers in the hallways due to their narrowness. East Side had, however, found a way to incorporate small lockers in every 6th-grade classroom. These lockers are big enough to fit books and small materials, but not big enough to fit a binder or a notebook, at least without bending them.

The main concern the principal had with the lockers in school is the fact that the lockers that do exist had been installed in classrooms, which makes it harder for students to access, especially between classes. He did say students may ask a teacher who isn’t their advisor to use a locker in their classroom, but again, the accessibility isn’t exactly convenient. It’s already difficult for students to move around in the hallways when everyone is trying to get to their class, having to move around, even more, would take up time.

The number of students in each grade is significantly more than the number of lockers provided. This causes many students to lose the opportunity of having a locker and are forced to bring their supplies everywhere, with no option to retrieve them when they need to like other students. Mark says this issue is particularly important with 7th graders and their parents. The 7th grade is stationed on the 4th and 5th floor, that is 6 - 8 flights of stairs to go up every day. Many 7th graders and their parents believe that they should have lockers, possibly because of the weight they have to carry upstairs every day.

The locker situation for every grade decreases equity between the students. If one student is able to have the choice of leaving their belongings in a locker, then so should another. This is definitely an issue East Side would love to solve but because of the lack of space and small hallways, there’s unfortunately not much that can be done.

The Effect of Lockers on Students

In 2019, a 9th grader at East Side who hadn’t had a locker claimed, “It’s an outrage! I need that space to put my stuff, and now I have to carry it all with me. It annoys me because I have so much school stuff that makes my bag weighed about 20 pounds.” The student also explained that they are on the soccer team and are sometimes forced to carry around all their equipment, such as shoes, all day. This shows the implications of lockers for students on sports teams and how having them would probably be more efficient.

"The supplies asked for every class are a lot, and together, take up every inch in my bag. Sometimes I’m even forced to improvise and put supplies together in order to have a lighter bag, but that causes my work to be unorganized and harder to find. If I were to have a locker, then I would leave the supplies in there and take them out when I need them,” said another 9th-grader interviewed in 2019, who didn’t have a locker. This demonstrates that while the supplies are essential to their organization, in order for them to feel more comfortable with the weight they carry and the number of things actually needed for each class, they make cutbacks that make them less prepared. Other students may choose to keep all their belongings at all times because they don’t know if they might need them at some point in the school day, but they all mentioned that it makes their bags heavier.

Some students who don’t have a locker in their own advisory look for a locker in a different classroom. This year, an 11th grader with a shared locker, Victoria, expressed her thoughts on the locker situation, saying, “There should be some lockers for younger students because there is no reason kids should be breaking their backs. I was a little upset that I didn’t have my own locker. I share one with a friend but both of us take up a lot of space.” The locker situation clearly frustrates her as a student of East Side not only for convenience but for physical reasons as well. “It’s the bare minimum a High School should provide,” she says, “especially now, after Covid, that we have to carry around our own devices and chargers, our bags have been so much heavier.”

However, not all students share the same view on lockers. A 10th grader stated they have a locker but don’t even use it. “Maybe for a sweater sometimes but that’s it,” they said, and claimed that the weight of their bag can be annoying but they have gotten used to it and don’t even see a need for a locker. Some students without lockers say similar things. Lockers may not be viewed as convenient for every student but this student still claims “I guess it is better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.”

The Future of Lockers in East Side

East Side currently has no direct plan to continue updating the locker situation according to Principal Mark Federman, due to the incapabilities of the school building itself. So it’ll stay idle for a moment but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for a solution to arise in the future.

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