New elevator policy scheduled to go into effect today leads to confusion

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Last Friday, administrators distributed elevator keys to teachers and staff members in accordance with a new policy that will restrict elevator access to those with a key. Though teachers were told at meetings that the policy would go into effect today, the elevators remained unlocked, leaving questions as to when the policy will begin and how students will be informed about it.

According to Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee, the custodial staff raised a concern regarding elevators at February’s safety meeting. “[They] brought up the fact that a lot of students are misusing the elevator buttons and causing the elevators to be in disrepair,” she said. “So, the principal thought it would be a good idea to have the elevator locked and only give the key to adults so that no staff has to confront students on the elevator for being unauthorized.”

She said that all students who need elevator access during the day would need an adult to assist them: “Since all staff members have keys, anytime a student [with an elevator pass] would like to use the elevator, they just need to grab any adult that’s nearby.”

After receiving keys on Friday, multiple teachers were told that students would not be able to use the elevators after school either.

In an interview conducted late last week, Ms. Fee also indicated that students would need an adult after school for elevator usage. She said that no matter what, students should have an adult around during “clubs and after school activities” who could decide to provide elevator access. She continued “On a day…like Friday afternoons, there’s fewer staff so students need to be aware of where the adults are in school” should they want elevator access.

However, today Assistant Principal Veronica York suggested otherwise, saying: “I do think what was said [was] that students can use them after school. After school we’ll unlock them and students will be able to use them at like 3:15.”

Adding to the confusion, teachers were told on Friday that the policy would go into effect today, but many quickly learned that they didn’t need their new keys to use the elevators. It is unclear now when the policy will go into effect. There has been no official explanation from the administration provided to students about the policy as of this evening.

With The Classic breaking the news of the change Sunday night on social media, students speculated about the new policy.

Senior Rochelle Lin hoped the school will keep the elevators open to students after school: “I can understand during the school day, but [students] should be able to have access after the school day because we’re tired and if you are coming from rehearsal or practice, you [don’t] want to climb up [the] stairs.”

“I don’t really understand where this change stems from; to me, it seems very sudden and unnecessary,” added junior Kenney Son. “If something did truly happen on the elevators, the school should deal with the students exactly involved in the ‘elevator case.’ How will students in clubs such as Robotics and Science Olympiad transport their heavy materials back and forth? Does a teacher need to be with them everywhere they go? My point is this: this change is and can be seen as absurd to the majority of the student body and the administration should reflect and review this change.”

In particular, community members wanted clarity for students with accomodations, temporary or long term, who require elevator access. According to Ms. Fee, these students are to find a nearby adult to give them access to the elevator. However, there may be times when adults are not available in plain sight, which Latin teacher Jonathan Owens described as “conceivably problematic.”

UFT chapter leader Franco Scardino pointed out that the policy for such students hadn’t been officially determined yet. “We have [students who need long term access]… I suggested that a key be made for [such students]… but [the administration] had not gotten to that point or it hadn’t been raised before,” he said.

As to why the change needs to be made, many seem unsure of the actual rationale.

Mr. Scardino said, “The only thing I started to think about was: could something have happened on the elevator? Since people know how to operate that button that does the override, did that cause some reason for the keying of [the elevators]?”

“Some of the students do play with the elevator,” added custodian Mario Vasquez. “They hold the buttons, and that causes the computer to malfunction after a while.” Despite knowing this, Mr. Vasquez still “[doesn’t] really know” who or what produced the change in policy.

Others cite students’ unauthorized usage of the elevators as a probable cause. “Having been here as long as I’ve been here, I remember a time when the elevator was very off limits all the time to students,” said Mr. Owens. “You had to wear [the elevator pass] on you, back when we had IDs that you had to have on [also]. I’ve noticed that once we started allowing students to use it after school, they tended to just use it all the time. I catch kids on the elevator more than I ever used to.”

“There’s definitely a level of frustration of adults having to wait for the elevator because students can push a button and skip floors,” Ms. York said. “I’ve definitely heard teachers frustrated, and I’ve also heard that students don’t have their passes out and some teachers feel uncomfortable having to say ‘Where’s your pass? Do you have an elevator pass?’ … The more we use [the elevators] the more we destroy them… I know that’s another concern of the school.”

We have reached out to Principal Brian Condon for an interview and will update when we have received comment from him.

Additional reporting by Ilma Aamir, Managing Editor

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Neil, Photography Editor 

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