Round Lake High School tours every Friday 9-10am through the end of October
With the $29 million bond referendum looming ahead on the November 4th ballot, have you taken Round Lake Area School District 116 up on their offer to let you tour the High School so that you can be an informed voter before casting your ballot? Today was the third week tours have been offered and they will continue through the end of October. It was also the first chance that I had to take the tour and thought I would share my experience with you.
First, let me mention for those who may be thinking about taking the high school tour, that parking was not a problem since there is sufficient guest parking available right in front of the main entrance (the first entrance that you come to). Second, you do NOT have to have a student in any of the Round Lake area schools since this is meant to inform local area voters about the need to increase the capacity and class offerings at the high school.
As I waited in the foyer with parent Jill Lewis, whose daughter is a junior at the high school, we watched as students arrived and were being greeted by Dr. Donn Mendoza, Round Lake High School’s Principal.
Dr. Mendoza was soon joined by Assistant Principal Andrew McDowell, Assistant Superintendent of Business & Operations Bill Johnston, and Public Relations Officer Heather Bennett. After introductions, we began our tour with Dr. Mendoza asking us if there were any specific areas that we would like to see. Ms. Lewis didn’t mention any but I asked if the gymnasium could be included since I had heard on several occassions that students were unable to do much other than “walk around” in the gym due to the over-crowding. Dr. Mendoza said that would be included but also mentioned that most of the gym classes were being held outside today due to the nice weather. I should also mention that there were no restrictions or off limit areas that couldn’t be viewed, although I would have liked to have been able to take a peek inside the new, unfinished school-based health clinic which was locked.
We toured a good portion of the high school and were able to observe inside any room we desired, although we mostly kept it at looking through the door’s window so as not to disrupt the classroom. We observed classrooms being held in walled-off former loading areas with the teacher’s back up against the still remaining overhead door (sometimes inclement weather does get inside!). We also observed classrooms built in upper areas that were originally just rafters over open areas such as the loading area. One small room on the upper level had a teacher’s desk and one medium sized table in the middle but looked more like a place you would send a kid for a “time-out” at home due to its tiny size. Another had all four walls with lockers but in the middle was a table with chairs, a place for the teacher, and a circulating fan on a stand.
I pointed out to Ms. Lewis some of the desks in one classroom that it would be impossible for a student to ease back from his/her desk since there was no space available. These were not the typical desks with the chair and desk connected like the majority of the ones being used. These were desks up along the wall that had been installed with bare minimum space between them. One or two had four-legged chairs and a couple of others had older mismatched desk chairs with rollers on the bottom which made it a bit easier to climb out of the tight quarters when you were ready to stand up.
When I thought ahead about how the high school tours would be handled, it’s easy to “envision” that much of the tour would be staged and that we would only see what they wanted us to see. However, with no restrictions on where we could stick our noses, I now realize that they DO have a major problem with over-crowding at the high school and it DOES need fixing. As a visitor to the high school, you may see the nice big entry and a few of the wide front hallways but once you start travelling through some of the older sections things get much more congested as you can see in the following short video. It’s not just the hallways, where students only have five minutes to get to their next class which may be at the other end of the building, but also in the classrooms which were crowded and muggy feeling today.
We also had an opportunity to tour the six new mobile classrooms that were already placed into service. They were purposely located further away from the main building so that if the referendum is successful, they won’t be disturbed by the expansion next to the building. We observed a number of available student parking spaces so apparently adding the mobiles has not caused an issue with student parking. Inside the mobile units was surprisingly a nice temperature controlled atmosphere, not as stuffy feeling as the older area classrooms. Even so, walking to them in the winter months or during the rain won’t be a typical walk in the park. These newer units hold several social studies classes and depending on a student’s schedule, they may actually have to make the trip more than once a day to complete their curriculum. Did I mention that they only have five minutes between classes!
As a parent or just a concerned registered voter, it’s important that besides learning more about the candidates running for elected office in November, it is equally important to find out why the school district is seeking a $29 million bond referendum. Taking the District up on their offer to freely tour the high school facility would be my suggestion. I want to thank my hosts and hostess (along with expressing my pleasure in meeting Jill Lewis) for their informational guided tour this morning.
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