by ERIN CLARK and ELIZABETH ENDERLE
WESTFIELD, Ind. (Oct. 26, 2018) - While cars lined the street and blocked traffic, students desperately waited to enter one of the few remaining parking lots. Some left up to 30 minutes early in the hopes of finding a place to park. Parents dropping off students faced similar problems as they were directed to Door 13, the athletic entrance and new student drop-off, along with student drivers. This stream of traffic resulted in at least one accident, making already late students even later as they attempted to return for their first day of school after fall break.
Students felt the effects of construction immediately upon returning from fall break.
“The one day that we all got back from fall break was disastrous, and it took 30 minutes to get everyone into the school,” Vika Platonova (10) said. “You can’t just put all your parking spots in the middle school....the people that are parking at the middle school also have to deal with construction there because one of those parking lots was taken out.”
One of the biggest problems was the excess traffic resulting from the closure of Door 1 and the corresponding parking lot. Something Chandlar Williams (11) felt could have been resolved by starting construction earlier.
“I personally feel like if they were going to start this giant construction project they should have done it earlier in the school year, like before school started so that there wouldn’t be so much backup,” Williams said. “Especially once 7:40 hits, because the traffic not even at the school is backed up all the way to East Street from North Union.”
The construction also interfered in after-school activities such as marching band practice.
“I think the school is doing everything it can,” Leanne Penley (11) said. “But when we had to practice in the parking lot, we had to go all the way around the school, and that was just a pain. We couldn’t access the door to the uniform storage room, that was blocked off, so we had to take everything through the atrium to load the semi and buses.”
Williams reasons that it was communication problems that caused so many issues upon the return from fall break.
“There was a lot of miscommunication from the school about where people should park for overflow, so a lot of people got tickets,” Williams said. “A lot of things should have been more thought out. The school kinda dropped the ball on this one.”
This miscommunication resulted in confusion and a lack of understanding for student drivers.
“We needed an understanding of how to get out of the parking lot safer, because I know for me sometimes it’s difficult to understand how they want us out before causing an accident,” Grace Cavanagh (11) said. “I feel like sometimes getting out of the high school and even in the morning sometimes when there’s no cop to direct it is a bit of a challenge.”
Beyond the problem of getting in and out of the high school, Cavanagh foresaw potential issues in student safety.
“From what I’ve seen, it's a lot of open-aired classrooms, which is a nice atmosphere for some students,” Cavanagh said. “But at the same time, they’ve mentioned and enforced a lot of safety, and I just don’t see how that would be safe if by chance there is an intruder and they’re just out in the open in the classroom.”
Platonova also noticed some potential flaws in the overall plan for the construction itself.
“I think that Dr. McGuire is like ‘we’re going to do a rigorous schedule,’ but so far, in like two weeks, they have only overturned the parking lot,” Platonova said. “And yeah, it might take a long time because it’s hard work, but it’s stone and dirt. If you plan on doing 20 months of construction, and it takes you two weeks to not even fully overturn a parking lot, that’s not going to work.”
Even with all of the current problems with adjusting to the construction, some still believed the improvements to be worth the inconveniences.
“I think it’s really going to benefit the school, especially the band program and the fine arts and all of that,” Penley said. “I believe we are getting more storage space for the instruments and maybe a small orchestra and small jazz room. It’s going to make the band room bigger for the whole marching band.”
Chemistry and Physics teacher Mr. Kevin Morse also viewed the benefits as worthwhile, noting the planned improvements to the science department.
“I’m super excited about the construction in the long term,” Mr. Morse said. “It’s really going to improve our facilities here in the science department, get us a lot closer to the top schools in the area, even some universities with the facilities and labs we are going to be able to do. We are going to be able to centralize a lot of our lab space while we update it, which is going to allow us as science teachers to collaborate a little bit more in the use of our equipment and the connection of our labs from one course to another with experiments.”
However, Mr. Morse did not deny that the construction itself will take some getting used to.
“The next few years are going to be rough as we’re going through the growing pains,” Mr. Morse said. “But I definitely think we are going to have one of the best science facilities around, and it’s going to be great for what we can do as a result.”