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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The Troubles of Modernization

WJ's New GymThe complexities of construction have left teachers and students waiting to mark their spot in the facilities that are slowly creating a new WJ. As one delay occurred, the domino effect came in to play further postponing the construction. Pepco failed to hook up the power on time, putting construction two weeks behind.

While some areas involving construction are settling down, the administration and staff are now, over a month into the year, feeling the effects of modernization set backs.

Gym/PE Facilities
The P.E. facilities did not open until Sept. 10, although they were originally planned to unveil by the first day of school. The state-of-the-art facilities include a dance studio primarily used for yoga, a weight room, wrestling room, small gym, locker rooms and main gym. The gym is tentatively scheduled to open Oct. 3.

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According to Modernization Coordinator and Assistant Principal Christopher Merrill, it wasn’t apparent until late July or early August that construction was falling behind, forcing the school and county to make a quick decision as to how to handle the situation.

“They could have really rushed it but everyone agreed, the county agreed, let’s not rush it and let’s do it right, let’s slow down, make sure we do it properly, and that way we don’t have to come back and re-fix it,” said Merrill.

While waiting for the final touches to be made to the facilities, the P.E. department altered their plans mainly by utilizing the cafeteria and sharing the wrestling room.

Students have a long walk from their classes to get to the P.E. facilities and depending where their P.E. class is, can have a long walk from the locker rooms to P.E.

Yoga teacher Janice Cornell was very excited to finally get the yoga space she was waiting for, yet has a few concerns involving the location of the dance studio where yoga is taught.

“I wish the yoga room was down where the wrestling room is because that’s kind of quiet and it’s a room by itself, kind of like my old yoga room was,” said Cornell. “I knew we would do a lot of quiet activities and we’re next to basketball [in the main gym], so I wasn’t too happy about that at the beginning. I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes when [the main gym opens] in October.”

Another concern Cornell had initially with the dance studio she has transformed into her yoga studio is a floor-to-ceiling, large window that principal Christopher Garran had added in for sunlight and decoration. Although Cornell was initially bothered by the excessive amount of sunlight the window brings into the studio, she has been promised there will be a blind-like cover placed on the window and is more excited to have a window of this type in her studio.    As for the rest of the facilities, there are still a few pieces left to be finished. Doors need to be put in place, such as in the yoga room and small gym. Also, the partially closed-off hallway toward the back of the school still needs to be opened to allow a better flow of traffic, especially to the P.E. facilities. Once these projects are completed and the main gym is opened, the indoor P.E. facilities will be the first completed phase of construction this year.

Even though they’ve been doing experiments ranging from dissections to electrophoresis, the science department is packing up and preparing to move from the labs they’ve been in for the last 30 years. The fact that the science department has more equipment than any other academic department in the school is going to make this one of the  more difficult moves.

The science department will be moving in two waves. Originally it was planned that one move would take place in October and the other in November, yet the first move has already been delayed to November and it is unknown when the second move will occur.

“Teachers have to come in on the weekend to move so that class can resume on a Monday,” said science teacher Khanh Chau. “We have to move things that break, like microscopes and glassware. [We also have to move] living things and the skeletons out of our closets, literally.”

The English department packed their books and moved from Portable City into a book room in the new wing of the school where English will be located. Although they were initially told they would move into the building six weeks after the start of school, it doesn’t appear things will go as planned, with a chance of English still being in portables in December.

English department head Amy Vachon hasn’t been given much information as to what the status is of the construction involving the English wing but, feels quite settled in the portables. The English department has been given a small, additional office inside the building along with a book room.

“I don’t think people [in the English department] really mind the delay,” said Vachon. “For the most part people have enjoyed working out here.”

The portables may not offer the technological accommodations the new classrooms will offer, but the English classes must continue to function regardless of the construction. Just like the P.E. department, the English department has accommodated to life in the portables, as their entire department has been relocated outside since last school year.

Student Drop-Off
Even over a month into the school year, parents are still baffled by the fact that the student drop-off is now located by the cafeteria due to the closure of the old drop off in front of the school. Rather than making the correct turn into the current student drop-off, many parents have resorted to alternative, unofficial drop-off spots.

With many parents used to turning directly into the school after passing G-Square, the side of Giant has become one of the more popular unauthorized drop-offs.

The side of Giant has become one of the most popular drop-off spots, sporting a long line of cars every morning. Dropping students off at the Giant may be the safest bet, but some parents have been choosing more dangerous, and some illegal options.

“We do have people who are still dropping off in the front, pulling into the bus loop, which is not allowed,” said Merrill. “That’s a serious issue, but I know our police officer, Officer Mills, is trying to work to solve that.”

Two anonymous students who are daily dropped off on the portable side of the school right in front of the fences have Mills constantly confronting their driver.

“Even though from the direction we’re coming from it’s much easier to get dropped off before we approach G-Square, the school has an unidentifiable issue with parents dropping students off right by the fence,” said the junior student. “There are at least 10 cars in a row dropping off students on the side of the road.”

The students claim that Mills is threatening to give their driver a ticket, even though they argue that they are only trying to avoid the traffic they find in both the school’s and Giant’s parking lots.

“We need to find a better student drop off where its closer to school and less congested,” said the anonymous student.

Although this option may not be illegal or cause Mills to threaten drivers with tickets, Merrill hates to see people dropping students off at Rock Spring where students must cross a busy street. Not only is this dangerous for the students, but student drivers have complained about waiting for kids to get out of their cars in the middle of the road, stopping traffic. As Merrill reiterated, the safest place for students to be dropped off is by the cafeteria.

“That’s the safest place because it’s on our property and it’s in the parking lot,” said Merrill.

Whether or not all parents have caught on to the cafeteria drop-off, every morning, Merrill personally oversees that the security team is at the drop-off and that things are running very well.

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