School lockers becoming a thing of the past

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

A national trend is not popular with some parents at Portales Junior High, and it’s safe to say that the ensuing locker talk isn’t all positive.

The junior high school, which has been in use for two years, was built without lockers. As a result, students have had to carry all of their books throughout the day, creating strain on backpacks, the students that carry them and the parents who worry about back problems.

Josett Evans, who has a son at PJHS, said she has addressed her concerns to PJHS Principal Steve Harris and Portales Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler, but has been disappointed with what she thinks is inaction.
“There are solutions around it, but I guess they aren’t wanting to deal with it.”

Evans didn’t think much of the school’s locker situation until her son mentioned back pain.

“My son had mentioned it, but it didn’t register to me until his backpack started tearing up,” Evans said. “After his backpack was demolished, that’s when I noticed.”

With about seven classes per day, and a book and supplies for each class, a student is likely carrying around a higher amount of weight than recommended. According to a student’s backpack should be no more than 10 percent to 15 percent of his or her respective body weight.

“It was an issue because my kid’s backpack weighs about 27 pounds,” Evans said, “(plus) some of the kids carry band instruments.”

Harris said that he does get complaints about the situation “on and off,” but the lockers were judged to be trouble for the school.

“In the old junior high school, the lockers were a place where the kids would hide stuff they weren’t supposed to be bringing to school,” Harris said. “They basically became hiding places rather than lockers. It was also a gathering place for kids and it created traffic problems in the hallway. It was decided the lockers were more of a hindrance than a help.”

Harris said he understands the complaint about backpack weight, and he recommends that students use wheeled backpacks.

“We have some kids that are pretty small,” Harris said. “(For) those kids, and anybody else for that matter, that’s worked out pretty well. It’s not a strain on their back.”

Harris admits he has no solution for students who ride the bus and have to carry a wheeled backpack on a dirt road. Harris added that the solution of keeping books in the classroom would create lag time for students who need to take a bus or participate in extracurricular activities.

The Portales High School campus still has lockers, about 250 in the freshman building. Principal Melvin Nusser said that about one-fourth of those lockers aren’t in use right now, and he doesn’t recall ever having a locker complaint in his four years as principal.

“We haven’t had any complaints. The difference is that high school kids have cars,” Nusser said. “If I’m an upperclassman, I might go first period, third period, take some night classes.”

Nusser said that many high schools are getting away from the locker option for the same reasons that Harris said. To combat the problem of heavy books, some schools choose to put textbooks onto CD-ROMS or issue textbooks for students to keep at home and keep an extra set in the classroom at all times.