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Mischief leads school to limit restrooms

Officials express safety concerns after several small fires were set at Gibbs High School this week.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 15, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Gibbs High School had a problem this week with students setting small fires in the restrooms, a misdeed that caused little damage but presented safety concerns.

The temporary solution to the problem, though, inconvenienced most of the 2,000 students at the school. Administrators decided to close the school restrooms, leaving open just a couple of restrooms for boys and a couple for girls.

"The decision was to put up with some inconvenience to deal with a safety issue," said Arlington Nunn, director of operations for the Pinellas County schools. "They had assistant principals monitoring the two bathrooms. I don't think there were long lines or anything like that. They would have opened up other bathrooms if the need arose."

There were a couple of small fires in restrooms at the school on Wednesday and again on Thursday, according to school district spokesman Ron Stone.

Gibbs administrators announced Thursday that students had to use specific restrooms because all the others would be closed. The campus was a little more crowded than usual on Thursday; hundreds of elementary school students were visiting Gibbs for a performance, Stone said.

"I had to go across campus and wait in a line to go to the bathroom," said Samantha Chaplinsky, 18, a senior at Gibbs. Samantha said she is proud of Gibbs as a school, and acknowledged that she didn't wait in line for too long; she estimated 10 minutes elapsed between the time she left her desk and returned. But she thought it unfair that "the whole student body has to pay for it."

"I don't like the idea of solving one problem by creating another problem," said Tom Chaplinsky, Samantha's father. "If you need more security temporarily, fine. But don't create a health hazard."

Nunn said he wasn't sure when the other restrooms would be reopened.

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