Half of JeffCo schools now have kitty litter-filled buckets for lockdowns

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Parents with students in Jeffco Public Schools may have seen some interesting items on their back-to-school shopping lists this year, including buckets and kitty litter.

That's because more teachers are opting to include "go buckets" in their classroom, to be used by students as toilets during prolonged lockdowns.

"I think it's a weird idea," said parent Michelle Gebers. "But I guess if you're in a lockdown situation, it's not something every parent is thinking about."

The idea was first brought up a few years ago, when students at Alameda High School were stuck in lockdown for more than four hours.

"After about 15 or 20 minutes, our kids and adults often have to use a bio break, and there's no place to go to the restroom when you're on lockdown," said John McDonald. "It's all about life safety."

McDonald is in charge of safety at the district's more than 150 schools.

He says the buckets, while uncomfortable for many to talk about, are a necessary tool.

"There is constant conversation throughout the year about school safety. It’s the world we’re living in," McDonald said.

Seventh-grade teacher Cassie Lopez is in her first year in Jeffco after moving from Denver Public Schools.

"We were in professional development in the library, and we were just wrapping it up, and our principal told us to get our buckets," she said. "It was upsetting because it was just very symbolic of where our country is at right now. The fact that there is a need to have a makeshift toilet in our classroom just says so much about where we're at."

Lopez says previous jobs in Minneapolis and at DPS did not include go buckets.

"Absolutely not," she said. "I think that's why it was so upsetting to me."

But in a district that is all-too-familiar with school tragedy, McDonald says the buckets are a proactive way to prepare for the worst.

"I tell everybody we’re only limited by our imagination. We’re only limited by the box we’re thinking in. So let’s start thinking outside the box," he said.

McDonald says the buckets are provided through donations, and do not cost the district significant money.

He estimates about half the district currently has the buckets.

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