Courageous Conversations: Is a Quality Learning Environment Crucial?


SPRINGFIELD –Here are the flaws in some of Springfield’s oldest schools. 

Continuing our “Courageous Conversations” series for February, we’re breaking down Proposition S — which Springfield voters will see on the ballot on April 2.

As we’ve reported, “Proposition S” is the $168 million bond proposal to renovate or rebuild several Springfield Public School (SPS) buildings.

We took a look at a few of the oldest and most outdated schools in the district to look at the condition of the buildings. 

The question is: Does the environment around a student affect their ability to learn? 

It’s hard to know for sure, but Hillcrest Senior, Sarah Hale, says the outdated design of her school is an issue. 

She was on the task force that worked on project recommendations for the bond. 

“At first, people didn’t really understand what was wrong with Hillcrest, or why it would need a lot of renovations,” Hale says.  

Some students are forced to face outdoor elements multiple times a day to either the band building, or to the west gym. 

“When you’re trying to walk in here — say from the science wing, which is the opposite side of the building — It’s hard to have enough time to get over here, and the doors are locked.”

She says not only is it a waste of time for classes, but it could present a safety issue. 

“Honestly, anything could happen. We’re not scared, but Hillcrest hasn’t had renovations in a long time,” Hale explains. 

Things like exposed internet wiring, lack of wheelchair access present problems.

Unfinished ceilings cause sound from the hallway to pour right into classrooms. That can be distracting when students are trying to focus. 

While these issues may not correlate directly, Hillcrest has a 73.38% graduation rate, which is the lowest of any high school in the district. 

These issues face younger students too. 

At Sunshine Elementary, Principal Tracy Daniels has been at the helm one semester. 

“The very first thing said to me was: We have a safety issue whwen it comes to entering and exiting the building during the school day. Currently when you enter the building during the school hours, our entrance is in the back of the building,” Daniels explains.  

From the time visitors enter the school to get here to the office to check-in, it can take them almost 45 seconds to do so. When they are walking this way they pass seven classrooms, plus their all purpose room before they to front of the school to check-in at the office.

“It just opens up an opportunity for people not making it to the office, disrupting the learning or just causing a little bit of uneasiness. We could move the office hub to the back of the building, and queue traffic that way,” Daniels says. 

This wold cause them to think more about car traffic, foot traffic and bus traffic. 

Sunshine isn’t the only elementary with space issues. 

Boyd Elementary faces it’s own set of problems. 

2nd-3rd grade teacher Chris Gregory has been at Boyd either as a parent or a teacher for 15 years.  

That’s a fraction of the school’s existence, which spans over 100 years. 

“It’s a great old building. But as a teacher there are lots of things that kind of hinder us in the way we can do things,” says Gregory.  

The old building has almost no handicap access. 

“I currently have a parent who is disabled. So that is another part of it. If we have students on crutches, they can’t get to their classrooms,” says Gregory. 

Space is a big issue as well, as the classrooms have little-to-no storage space. They also have two classrooms that are in trailers behind the school.

Maybe the biggest issue: two restrooms in the building for nearly 180 students.

Those restrooms are located in the basement. It creates scheduling and safety concerns, especially for Mrs. Gregory, whose 3rd-floor classroom is 40 stairs away. 

“A lot of our schedule we base on when do I take my kids to the bathroom as a group so they can be supervised. If I have a child going from the third floor to the basement, I can’t see them even if I was standing out here. I can see the basement floor, but I can’t see the bathroom,” Gregory says. 

These, and many other concerns in old buildings are things that SPS will look to give a face lift, but it all comes down to the voters decision on April 2nd. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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