October 20, 2012
Project improves CHS entrance
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland Junior-Senior High School student Austen Gardner enters the school cafeteria, which has been closed as part of the capital project that is nearing conclusion.
Cortland Junior-Senior High School is a quieter place this year, as the old “commons” kind of cafeteria has a wall around it.
Administrators and teachers say it is a more secure place as well, in the second year that people entering the building in the front must go through the main office first. In the previous setup, they could go left to the office or straight ahead into the cafeteria area.
The cafeteria has a wall along one side and tables are placed all the way to the wall at the building’s front. The new wall is mostly composed of glass cubes, 6 inches by 6 inches — 67 rows of them, eight cubes high.
They are not transparent but light travels through them. The wall is completed by regular plaster and paint wall structure. A door is at each end, at the food line and at the exit.
The security entrance and the cafeteria design are part of the Cortland Enlarged City School District’s $41.6 million capital project, which is ending this fall. The project, approved by voters in 2008, renovated all six school buildings to make their entrances more secure, heat and ventilation systems, and classrooms.
Moiseichik Stadium at the high school got an artificial turf field and new track, bleachers and press box.
School district leaders wanted to make sure visitors to each building must go through an office, for security purposes.
In the recent past, the Cortland Junior-Senior High School cafeteria area had open hallways on either side, with no walls, creating one open space. That design replaced offices that used to be at the center of the building’s front, with eating areas in separate rooms elsewhere.
The building has undergone four renovations or expansions since opening in 1965.
Executive Principal Gregory Santoro said the cafeteria’s new arrangement cuts down on noise and chaos.
“We wanted the cafeteria separated from students and staff walking by, and it’s more manageable this way,” he said.
Santoro likes the new design for a third reason as well: it is an easier space to monitor when students take tests there.
The cafeteria is used by students in grade seven through 11. Seniors eat lunch in a lounge across the hall, which opened last year.
The glass wall has become an attraction for students who want to hang out along its length, Santoro said, a trend he has not encouraged.
“This cuts down on the noise dramatically, and there’s no bantering back and forth from kids walking past the tables,” said Chuck Pettit, technology education teacher, said about the new wall.
Pettit, who has taught at the school for 26 years, serves as a morning supervisor, monitoring students who wait in the cafeteria for school to start.
He said he likes the new security entrance, especially after the district experimented over the years to see how long it took for visitors to be challenged as to who they were and why they were in the building.
Officer Robert Reyngoudt, school resource officer, said city police patrolmen in plain clothes roamed the school without being challenged. School districts across New York state were already changing their entrances to be closer to the main office or locked during school hours, he said, especially after the Columbine, Colo., school shootings of 1999.
Reyngoudt said a school building’s staff and teachers need to be vigilant.
“You can have dozens of cameras and a new entrance, but if people in the building aren’t conscientious, it’s not as effective,” he said. “That’s the biggest piece of the puzzle.”
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