Bathrooms in Richmond’s schools will soon get an upgrade.

On Friday, Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras announced a “bathroom blitz” — an effort to beautify the school division’s decrepit bathrooms.

City officials allocated just $1.6 million to school maintenance for this year. The system requested over $30 million more than it received.

“Peeling paint, broken stall doors and faucets that don’t work were sadly all too common,” Kamras said in his weekly email to the Richmond Public Schools community. “I promised our students I would tackle this. So that’s what I’m going to do.”

Kamras, who took over in February, said that when he was touring all 44 of the city’s schools, students often complained to him about the conditions in the bathrooms.

Student tour guides would regularly make it a point to show him the bathroom in their school just to make sure he knew how bad it was, he said.

About two months after Kamras completed his 44-school tour, he announced his commitment to “fixing and beautifying” the bathrooms.

Kamras said every bathroom will be upgraded by the start of the upcoming school year in September.

The school system’s facilities team has evaluated the needs for each building and work has started, said Kamras, who added that the school division is contacting businesses and nonprofit organizations for help.

The district plans on launching a website next week so members of the public can sign up to help.

Kamras’ promise to beautify the bathrooms isn’t the first he has made related to facilities.

Earlier this year, he vowed to replace the gym floor at Huguenot High School, a floor in Richmond’s newest high school building that was unusable this year because of water damage.

Like the bathroom upgrades, the gym floor replacement is underway.

Kamras said the “bathroom blitz” is part of a three-part school beautification initiative that he’s calling “RPS Shines.”

The second part is a yearlong effort with the city’s arts community to add murals to school hallways.

Then, in August, RPS plans on holding a “beautification week,” in which members of the public will help with small projects at schools. More information will be released in the week ahead, Kamras said.

The superintendent acknowledged that the short-term beautification fix won’t help the school division’s systemwide facilities problems, which would take an estimated $800 million to improve over the next 20 years.

“These efforts, while critical, won’t address our long-term facilities needs,” Kamras said of the short-term fixes.

As he’s done in the past, Kamras pledged to work with city and state officials to find funding for those facilities problems.

Sarah Pedersen, a teacher at Binford Middle School, said she appreciates Kamras’ leadership when it comes to facilities.

“We’ve been hearing for years that the restrooms in certain schools are missing soap dispensers, faucets, even stall doors,” Pedersen said after the announcement. “This should have been something that the city itself funded, but I appreciate Mr. Kamras not waiting until our elected leaders came around to providing basic services to the city’s children.”

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Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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