Without lockers, students weighed down by backpacks


Lockers zip-tied in the Hele hallway

Sofie Sullivan, Staff Writer

Beginning with the 2020 school year, in an effort to avoid crowded hallways during the Covid-19 pandemic, lockers were not available for MMS students. Instead, students would have to carry all of their school supplies in their backpacks. 

In order to determine how much weight students are carrying on their backs, The Wildcat Voice staff weighed the backpacks of more than thirty students, ten from each of the three grade levels.  The heaviest backpack weighed was 25 pounds, and the lightest backpack  was 7 pounds. The average weight was 19 pounds. 

Weight tends to vary by grade. Sixth grade backpacks on average were the lightest, then seventh, then eighth grade backpacks weighing the most. Eighth graders may have to carry more textbooks for their elective classes or languages that they are taking.

Chiropractors say the maximum amount of weight that someone should be carrying in a backpack is 10 pounds.   Carrying more can create shoulder, back, and neck pain. This pain can end up being lifelong and cause serious injury such as permanent weakness in the arms and hands. 

Federal health recommendations say the weight of a backpack should not weigh more than 20% of one’s weight to prevent injury.  The recommendation for children is even lighter. The Los Angeles Children’s Hospital said, “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. For an 80-pound child, this means that the backpack should weigh no more than 8 to 12 pounds.”  

The average textbook weighs about 3.5 pounds, and the school-issued HP Chromebooks weigh nearly 3 pounds.  Add a water bottle and other supplies, and the weight is easily over the recommended weight.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Backpacks that are too heavy can cause pain, lead to serious injury and affect posture. Children can end up with injuries in their joints, back/spine, muscles, neck and shoulders from backpacks that are too heavy.”

Some people might think that carrying a 20-pound backpack  is not that big of a deal because kids only have to carry it during passing time, which is about 27 minutes a day. However  some kids walk to school and/or home from school. That can be up to a 30-minute walk each way. When it starts to get cold out, kids may bring boots and coats to school, and those will have to carried around all day as well.

Backpacks cluttering classroom aisles

The added bulk in backpacks or the added item of a carried coat create inconvenience and also clutter up classroom aisle as items are placed at students’ feet.  

When asked if lockers would be reinstated, Principal Destino commented that hallway incidents and tardies have been greatly reduced as a result of not using lockers, and teachers are nearly unanimous in their support of the no-locker policy. They say that students carrying backpacks has cut down on being unprepared or supplies and papers being lost.

So it seems that what started as an effort to social distance may be a long-term change.