Wootton isn’t safe place to learn

This school has not been updated since it opened in 1970. Since then the school has had a few minor upgrades, and while they did improve the school’s infrastructure at the time, the building is in no way a beautiful learning environment, nor a place that I would feel proud about saying, “I go to Wootton High School.” Don’t get me wrong, I do cherish the moments that I spend at the school, however, when the ceiling tiles constantly have water stains on them, or they just simply aren’t there at all, it diminishes the amount of pride I have to go to this school.

Out of 30 high schools in Montgomery County, this school is one of the few schools that have never been fully renovated, despite the urgent need. I understand that we are located in an affluent neighborhood, however that should not mean that the school should suffer.

Every year of school there seems to be a new issue or problem occuring, whether it’s buckets or trash cans in the hallways due to water leaking from the ceiling or the fact that the school isn’t ADA compliant. When walking into school, students shouldn’t have to worry about mold or asbestos that is all over the ceilings and floors, or worry about looking down and seeing cracked tiles on the floor, or looking up and seeing the pipes in the ceiling. Mold causes the inability to focus, or even harms memory, and that is in no way a safe environment. Students should be able to come to school and have a safe learning space, just the same as all the other high schools in the county that are updated.

Whenever I walk through the school, there is always at least one person in the building that has crutches or is in a wheelchair. There are only two accessible elevators to students, each of them being at opposite ends of the school, meaning that each student has to walk great distances to get to the elevator. Students are sometimes stuck in the elevators, causing them to miss class even more than the time it takes them to get to the class. If we were to ever have a serious emergency where students and staff needed to evacuate the building, there would be no fast way to get out of the school with only one wheelchair ramp by the student drop off, and the dangers of the uneven walkways coming with a chance of becoming more injured.

At the Nov. 9 Capital Improvements meeting with the Board of Education, junior Rhea Chelar spoke about her personal experiences. “ I tore my ACL and meniscus when students were out of school due to COVID-19 and I am so thankful that I did not have to suffer in the inaccessible Wootton building while on crutches, as many of my peers have complained about while injured,” Chelar said.

Bathrooms are a necessity to everyone. Going into the bathrooms, much of the time there is either no toilet paper, a leak in the sink or toilet, only hot water in some sinks, or dirt and mold on the floor, walls and ceilings. Not to mention the locker rooms are filled with mold, cracks and not even enough lockers for the student body.

Students often sit on the floor for lunch because as much as anyone can try, not everyone will fit inside the cafeteria. I wouldn’t trade my lunch spot or the experiences I’ve made there at all, but the fact that students have to sit where bacteria is spreading, and shoes are walking is ridiculous. I get that this school was not meant to hold this many people when it was built. But the times have changed, and it is unreasonable that you could not fit over 640 students in the cafeteria with a school population of nearly 2,200 students.

Coming to school and worrying about tripping, having water drip on my head, getting sick with mold or not using the bathroom due to lack of supplies is not what MCPS strives for. So why is Wootton constantly on the backburner, constantly getting pushed back to make room for something else, or making space for a bigger school’s budget, when our school isn’t even ADA compliant?