LEWISTON — Like most high school students, Lexie Ouellette and Alicia Lapointe don’t use their lockers.

All day, they carry everything they need for the day.

“I already have back problems from my backpack,” said Ouellette, 17, who doesn’t weigh much more than 100 pounds. Her doctor has cautioned her she’s headed for herniated discs, she said.

Ouellette said she often tries to carry her books with her hands instead of her backpack. On a recent day, she said in her backpack were four “enormous” textbooks, four folders, four notebooks and a water bottle.

In Lapointe’s backpack were two textbooks, “four binders that are two inches thick,” her Chromebook and a water bottle, she said.

“I never use my locker,” Lapointe said. “I couldn’t tell you where it is.”

Students don’t use lockers because the lockers are too small, are too far away from classes, and don’t have locks.

“It’s easier to have my stuff with me for the day than to run back and forth,” Lapointe said. “Plus we only have five minutes to go to class. Sometimes our classes are in the basement. Who’s to say we have time to go to C wing upstairs. Our school is large.”

Lapointe said she wears her backpack “so it sags down toward my bum.” That’s more comfortable, she said, than having the weight up near her shoulders.

That’s the wrong way to wear the pack, according to Dr. Linda Glass of Lewiston.

Students should carry backpacks that weigh no more than 20 percent of their body weight, and the backpacks should be worn high and not sag down the back. If not worn properly, students face the possible danger of bad posture and future health problems.

Ouellette said she too doesn’t use her locker because, not only would there not be enough time, there wouldn’t be enough room to get into lockers. Before and after classes, the halls are jammed. “There are so many kids,” Ouellette said.

Both also said if they used lockers, they’d also worry about their belongings being stolen.

One solution, they offered, was for teachers to use fewer heavier textbooks and use material online that students could access with their laptop computers.

When Assistant Principal Jay Dufour graduated from Lewiston High School in 1995, students used lockers, he said.

“We didn’t have those big L.L. Bean backpacks that could carry the world,” Dufour said. “Mine was tiny. I had to use my locker.”

He acknowledged that while student backpacks have grown bigger and heavier, the high school lockers “are dated,” tall and small.

And Lewiston high schoolers are responsible for getting their own locks for lockers, Dufour said. Many don’t bother, and lockers in the halls stand empty.

Even if lockers were the right size, Dufour questioned whether students would use them.

“My son attends the Auburn Middle School where lockers are stacked and wider,” making it easier to put books away.

Still, his son doesn’t use his locker and carries around a heavy backpack. “I’m trying to get him to use his locker,” Dufour said. “They don’t want to. It’s inconvenient.”

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Lewiston High School students Alicia Lapointe and Lexie Ouellette don’t use their lockers because the lockers are too small and too far from classes. Ouellette, right, said she has back pain from carrying a heavy backpack. (Bonnie Washuk photo)

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Students forgo lockers as they change classes recently at Lewiston High School.  (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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