When an individual wants to enter Lake County High School, they approach the main entrance completely visible to the office staff. They step inside the vestibule where they face a series of locked doors leading to the school. There is a secure window to the office where they can announce who they are and why they’re there. The office staff has a choice of opening the doors to the school or not.
A visitor to West Park Elementary School is visible to the office staff through an interior window, but only after they are actually inside the school.
If someone wants to enter Pitts Elementary (The Center), they walk in the door and up some steps before they come to the school office. The office has no window to see who is approaching the school.
Last week the Herald got a tour of the two schools, Pitts Elementary and West Park Elementary, slated to be replaced if the voters say yes at the Nov. 5 election. The district has already been promised a $20.8 million BEST grant if the voters agree to fund a $13.9 million bond measure to replace the two elementary schools with one new school.
On the tour were Kathleen Fitzsimmons, West Park principal; Wendy Wyman, school superintendent; and Colleen Kaneda, owner’s representative.
The tour started at the high school, which, thanks to an earlier BEST grant, was extensively renovated in 2014. Although security was not an issue when West Park and Pitts were constructed, it is a big issue today, and the high school has a number of security features beside the security vestibule: a panic button, speakers that reach throughout the school for security-related announcements and locks on doors that enable certain area of the building to be locked down.
At West Park, there is no access-control system, no integrated panic button, no way to see who is approaching the building. Currently security is handled by having a doorbell camera and by manually locking exterior doors during the school day. Like West Park, the security and other systems at Pitts often date back to 1955 and are seldom newer than 1995.
Both Pitts and West Park are listed among the ten school buildings in the state most in need of replacement.
In both facilities, hazardous materials are an issue, as with most buildings of that era. In West Park, almost all the rooms have at least one asbestos-related issue, according to Kaneda.
In West Park, the water system is beyond its useful life, raising the risk of a building shutdown should the water service-line fail.
The same can be said of the sewer service. In West Park, the sewer line has failed several times over the past few years, Kaneda said, causing raw sewage to back up into the building. At one time, sewer repairs resulted in restrooms being shut down in a portion of the school.
Heating systems at both schools are also precarious, according to Kaneda. The four boilers serving West Park were installed in 1997-1999. Currently one is completely down and one is partially functioning. Should another fail, there would be no redundancy.
Other problems at the two schools include electrical systems, roof and building envelopes, accessibility and interior systems. Neither school meets current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, and neither accommodates wifi or internet. West Park also has no fire-sprinkler system.
Since West Park was built, the building requirements regarding snow load have increased considerably. This past winter, school was shut down while school personnel shoveled more than 24 inches of snow from the roof.
Members of the community were invited to tour West Park on Wednesday of last week to learn more about why the building should be replaced.
There are no plans at this time to replace Pitts. However, the children there would be moved to the new school, which would serve pre-kindergarten through second grade and provide more inclusivity, Fitzsimmons said.
The school-district administration is now located in a portion of Pitts and would remain there after the children move to the new school.