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Handwriting on the temporary walls: teacher concerns about upstairs walls

Kim+Philipp%2C+English+teacher%2C+talks+with+students+about+a+class+project.+%22The+most+concern+%5Babout+the+walls%5D+I%27ve+ever+seen+%5Bfrom+students%5D+was+when+the+lockdown+took+place%2C%22+Philipp+said.+%22Just+because+it+was+this+classroom.%22
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Handwriting on the temporary walls: teacher concerns about upstairs walls

Kim Philipp, English teacher, talks with students about a class project.

Kim Philipp, English teacher, talks with students about a class project. "The most concern [about the walls] I've ever seen [from students] was when the lockdown took place," Philipp said. "Just because it was this classroom."

Photo by Ellie Melvin

Kim Philipp, English teacher, talks with students about a class project. "The most concern [about the walls] I've ever seen [from students] was when the lockdown took place," Philipp said. "Just because it was this classroom."

Photo by Ellie Melvin

Photo by Ellie Melvin

Kim Philipp, English teacher, talks with students about a class project. "The most concern [about the walls] I've ever seen [from students] was when the lockdown took place," Philipp said. "Just because it was this classroom."

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What stands between a class and a quiet atmosphere? Or students and a safe environment? For now, temporary walls.

The school’s second floor classrooms are lined with temporary walls thinner than the cinder block around the rest of the school. This means sound carries across classrooms, causing some issues of distraction, but it is primarily safety concerns that have arisen from teachers working upstairs.

“I’ve been concerned about [the walls] for a while,” Laura Kustra, history teacher, said. “I [had] voiced my concerns, but I don’t think I ever really took it to [the point of] actually trying to implement some action until the hard lockdown occurred, which is sad that it took something like that to kind of spark some action, but sometimes that happens.”

Kustra has taught at the high school for almost 17 years but says “the walls were like this even when I went to school here” from 1994 to 1998.  She is not alone in her concerns about safety when it comes to the thin walls, and when Kustra spoke with her department chair, she said she did so to voice the thoughts of several teachers working upstairs, including those of Kim Philipp, English teacher.

“After the [hard lockdown] that took place this year, and it was in my classroom [that the potential threat was], I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been actually concerned,” Philipp said. “As a teacher, you feel a sense of responsibility for all your students, but that day especially I felt like, ‘I can’t do anything about this,’ and I’ve never felt that before in a classroom.”

Some teachers including Philipp and Kustra met with Ryan Rubenstein, assistant principal, after the lockdown to discuss upstairs safety. Rubenstein was “not surprised at all” about being approached, he said, because he has had his own opinions on the temporary wall situation.

“[I’m] very empathetic to their concerns. I’ve been in my position now for 11 years and I don’t think a year has gone by without having someone voice a concern about [the upstairs walls],” Rubenstein said. “We [as a building] are trying to work with the teachers and hear their opinions and their voice to make sure that we’re trying to put them in a position where they feel the most comfortable.”

Kustra was eventually recommended to reach out to Kaine Osburn, superintendent, directly about her and her peers’ safety concerns about the walls, and the two had a conversation that left Kustra optimistic about action to replace them.

“The school board has now been made aware that this is a safety concern, and they are working to allocate funding to rectify the problem,” Kustra said. “Timelines regarding that funding for that was not shared with me, but it was a step in the right direction, and I felt confident that upper administration here understands our concerns and student concerns as well.”

According to Rubenstein, that next step is finding the funding for replacing the walls, a process that could be long-term since the district’s budgeting or referendum for the next five years has already been passed. However, Rubenstein says there have already been conversations among administrators about using any extra funds to put towards new walls.

“As budgets come in for different projects and things like that, [Admin.] will look to see [if they will have anything leftover],” Rubenstein said. “Just for example, the new May Whitney, if it that comes in under budget, then they would reallocate that money to do other projects [like replace our walls].”

In the meantime, the temporary walls pose some issues of daily annoyances.

“Obviously, I’m loud, and I feel sorry for Mrs. May all the time that she can hear [me teach], she probably knows a lot more about history than she ever thought she did,” Kustra said. “But I think that that’s something that we’ve just kind of learned to deal with.”

“Safety always comes first,” which overshadows any small issues of noise, and the thin wall between her and Courtney May, English teacher, has even become an ongoing joke, Kustra said. The more important note, according to Philipp, is a push for change.

“What I would like to see is [Admin.] putting a plan in place, and laying it out, and actually it taking place sooner than say five years from now. I understand there are several rooms up here. I understand that, but at the same time it’s just, again, the concern that I felt that day [of the lockdown], I’ve never felt that ever as an educator,” Philipp said. “That’s just unfortunately how I view that wall now, [as something that] can’t protect my students.”

 

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About the Writer
Ellie Melvin, Staff Writer

Ellie is a freshman jumping into high school as a new member of the Bear Facts staff. She has a fresh passion for journalism and is always looking for...

1 Comment

One Response to “Handwriting on the temporary walls: teacher concerns about upstairs walls”

  1. Kim Roach on April 16th, 2019 7:06 am

    This calls for students to speak at the next school board meeting! Ideally it should be students who speak, but if not parents! If elementary parents can get air conditioning put in at a HUGE cost, I don’t understand why or how true safety measures would/could be ignored by the school board! BTW nice article!

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Handwriting on the temporary walls: teacher concerns about upstairs walls