Are lockers now irrelevant? Yes, for this principal’s nearly 4,000 students

Scott Gengler, principal of Waytaza High School in Plymouth, MN, says only 100 students requested a locker this year. Could resources be better spent elsewhere?

In this Minnesota high school, students crowd the lockers every day to hang out in between classes. But they’re not using them. Actually, the vast majority of them are empty, which poses the question: Do students even need one anymore?

As you can imagine, K12 institutions since the height of the pandemic have only gotten increasingly digital. In fact, 94% of all public schools reported providing a device to students who needed them last fall, per the latest data from the Institute of Education Sciences’ School Pulse Panel survey. One might assume that this would lead to fewer students using their lockers, implying that everything they need is on their devices. But this principal believes it’s a culture change.

Scott Gengler is the principal of Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minnesota, which is home to 3,700 students. This year, he says only 100 students had requested a locker.

“At some point, we evolved out of lockers, and I think that was driven more from students choosing to carry backpacks around,” he says. “Our students haven’t accessed their lockers routinely for well over 10 years.”

He notes that given the size of the school, it’s probably easier for students to simply keep all their belongings with them rather than bounce between their lockers and their classrooms. But it may also point to a growing trend nationwide.

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Since the explosion of education technology over the past few years, the need to store things like textbooks has been eliminated, WRAL News reports. Many schools, like Tullahoma High in Tennessee, The Tullahoma News reports, first removed locker requirements during the height of the pandemic to reduce the risk of spreading but then realized that students preferred backpacks anyway.

“It seems like more and more kids are moving away from traditional locker use,” Gengler says. “I do think there’s a component of there being less ‘hard’ materials that kids are having to keep track of and navigate. We’re a 1:1 school with iPads. Textbooks aside, a lot of our teachers have gone digital with a lot of the material.”

Also, gone are the days, it seems, when students have multiple three-ring binders designated for each subject.

“The combination of all those factors together—backpacks are in style, you can reduce your curricular material load and our students only have four classes—I think our kids are finding it more seamless to navigate the school day keeping everything in a backpack versus having to go to a locker.”

Gengler says they’re currently in the process of renovations to remove their lockers floor by floor, which he says students will prefer.

“Kids will be appreciative because they feel like the lockers are actually getting in the way and causing congestion,” he says. “They’re basically stacked locker rows through the middle of a significantly wide hallway. By removing those lockers, they feel like there’s going to be better flow.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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