Schools are supposed to be places of learning, so when my attempts to understand the Ideal Gas Law in AP Chemistry are interrupted by jackhammers, I cannot help but wonder who exactly thought that students could learn through such disruptions. Though the construction project has just begun, it has already proven itself to be lacking.
When I saw it for the first time, it could only be described as the “psych-ward hallway.” With its blindingly white walls, cool, sterile lighting, and huge windows for observation, I wondered which designer thought those choices created an active and lively learning environment. Of course, I am talking about the rooms in the 00 hallway, formerly the library. If being hideous was not crime enough, they also impede education. Teachers and students alike have complained about the distracting windows, which allow people in the hallways to look right into and distract classes but also allow people in opposing rooms to look right at each other. One teacher even described it as a “giant fishbowl,” and for those unlucky enough to have several classes there, they could not remember the “last time [they] saw the sun.” In my opinion, the sacrifice of the library has been in vain. The LGI also met a similar fate, sectioned off into classrooms divided by drywall, which, as students and teachers alike have learned, carries sound very well.
The windows, much like the rest of the building, are also incredibly unsafe. Along with seeing contractors carting wheelbarrows of debris on their way to class, students can also enjoy having no place to hide in the event of an emergency, random doggy doors with no apparent purpose, and inhaling drywall dust in the former middle school hallway. I pray that there is never an evacuation of those classrooms because they are bottle-necked on both sides with fewer ways out than ever before.
What remains of the library is another sorry case. Students who wish to use the library are treated to a wall-less extension of the hallway with not nearly enough seats or study rooms. No longer are there any quiet spaces at Avonworth. If jackhammers and drills are not your study music of choice, you can also expect to be treated to the symphony of middle-school class switch and general hallway traffic. Not to mention, drab grey shelves lined with not books but dust prevent students from even attempting to access the school’s wealth of information. The library is no longer a quiet workspace, a group working environment, or a place where information is found. I can only wonder what the planners and designers of the school thought a “library” was used for.
Among the most widely hated changes to the school was the removal of lockers. Administrators claimed that when they surveyed various student groups, most reported that they did not use their lockers regularly. This was translated into a plan to remove them from the building to widen the hallways, with no replacement plan in sight. The hallways were extremely narrow, but eliminating the lockers improved them just as much as it worsened them. Anyone who thought that high school students would not need a place to leave their belongings has clearly never spent a day following a student. Any student in a class that requires a textbook, will have a great time carrying it all day because not only is there no place to put it, but teachers can not even offer their rooms because their rooms are not theirs at all. Athletes are a little better off– they can leave their bags in the back of the auditorium, now Frau’s classroom. It is clear that the planners did not anticipate winter coat season either: when PA temperatures drop below 30*F, winter coats will have to be carried all day or not worn at all. Those with gym bags, after-school activities, lunch boxes, and water bottles must lug them on their person all day, every day.
Speaking of movement, foot traffic patterns were also poorly planned. There are two times a day when the entire high school, if not the entire building, must pass through just a double door: in the mornings, when we are all forced to wait in the cafeteria for merely five minutes, and during the LEAD-Lunch switch for the upper and underclassmen. During these times, students can enjoy being pressed together like sardines in a can as they try to force past each other to get to class on time. One of my classmates even went as far as to describe it as a “bottleneck event.” During phase planning, I doubt anyone even bothered to walk the route of an average student with a class across the building. Some courses, like Physics in room 400, or the auditorium classes, are only accessible via this route, making being on time impossible.
If you want to use LEAD to meet with teachers, you’ll need a signed pass before LEAD. But how exactly you’re supposed to get a pass before what may be your only open period, is unclear. If it’s a teacher you no longer have, a club advisor, or a sudden issue, best of luck trying to get a pass, turn it in to your LEAD teacher, and return to your meeting in the shortened period. It becomes an endless loop of passes. You need a pass to get a pass and so forth. I hope you can even find your teacher, because those who are on carts could be anywhere, and there is no atlas resource with which they can be tracked down.
It’s not just school activities and education that are suffering. Clubs are finding it increasingly hard to hold meetings and events due to the changing environment of the school. With the library, a shell of what it once was, and the LGI nonexistent, clubs with more than a few members have nowhere to meet. Student-leaders cannot plan events, communicate face-to-face with new members, or plan small-scale events because the space for them no longer exists at Avonworth. It is doubly difficult for those who used to meet during the day. The library is constantly full on account of its reduced size and split LEAD-Lunch forces either the under or upperclassman to miss their lunch period for a meeting.
So if students no longer have space, teachers no longer have classrooms, and clubs can no longer have meetings, who does have space at Avonworth High School? I cannot be mad that the construction is happening, the district is growing and needs more space. I cannot be mad that it is a year behind schedule; some situations are out of even administrative control. I can be mad, however, at how poorly it was planned and integrated by the people who claim and are being paid, to “put students first.” There is no reason students should have to learn in an active construction zone. No section that has active work should also have student traffic. Plans for lockers and student spaces should have been established before any ground was broken. I understand that construction was always going to be an uncomfortable process, but attempts by administrators to change too many things at once, like the schedule, hallway system, and parking, have caused strife beyond what is acceptable. Changes in school should be student-centric, but there is not a single part of this year that I can genuinely say is.
— editorial originally published in the Fall 2023 Avonews, issue 1 vol 82. Pictured below from the Instagram account.
Avonworth School District posted a communication update the weekend after this editorial was published in the fall 2023 Avonews.
See District Communication, Letter from Dr. Hadley: https://www.avonworth.k12.pa.us/about/construction-updates/district-communication