Construction Alterations Have Negatively Impacted the Student Body

Westwood+High+School+has+been+undergoing+construction+to+expand+and+improve+the+campus+since+spring+2020.+The+new+math+wing+has+recently+been+completed%2C+and+the+fine+arts+facilities+are+currently+being+renovated.+Photo+courtesy+of+Alana+True.+

Alana True

Westwood High School has been undergoing construction to expand and improve the campus since spring 2020. The new math wing has recently been completed, and the fine arts facilities are currently being renovated. Photo courtesy of Alana True.

Aanika Hirode, Arts & Entertainment Editor

I vividly remember the day in June 2020 when I drove past Westwood, expecting the familiar sight to provoke nostalgic memories from before school shut down due to the pandemic. But instead, I was surprised to encounter mountains of wood planks, large bulldozers perusing the campus, and the lingering scent of sawdust in the air. When I learned that they were constructing a new wing for the math classrooms, I was initially thrilled at the prospect of getting to learn inside a real classroom. Of course, I had no idea that I would be spending the entire 2020 to 2021 school year within the confines of my bedroom. Nevertheless, when we returned to school in the fall of 2021, it was exciting to have all of our classes inside the building.

Unfortunately, we soon realized that the construction was far from complete, despite the school being devoid of its usual activity for 17 months. Then, after a semester of trekking back and forth between the school and the portables, it was finally declared that the new math wing was ready for use, and our spring semester math classes would take place there. Unfortunately, more change came along with this announcement. The school had begun construction on several fine arts facilities, and the theatre and choir classes would be moving into the portables. 

Now that I have spent a few days in the new math wing, I have encountered several issues with the situation. First of all, the new wing feels like a substandard extension of the rest of the building. The whole area has a dreary ambiance with its dim lighting and vacant walls, and the classrooms are inexplicably smaller. While the portable comfortably accommodated our entire class with room to spare, the new classroom has forced us to cram the desks together. Additionally, the hallways surrounding the wing have become overwhelmingly crowded as students enter and exit. While there are three ways to navigate to the hallway, the science hallway has become inundated with students since it is the closest to the rest of the classrooms upstairs. Then there is the issue of how far the new wing is from our other classrooms. The six-minute passing period is already a narrow window of time for students to get to their next class, and the addition of a new, even farther, wing does not help matters. Now that my third block calculus class is in the new wing and my fourth block theatre class is in the portables, it takes me ten minutes to traverse the distance in between. The math classes should have just remained in the portables, and many students share that opinion. It makes no sense to change a system that has worked for so many years, especially in the middle of an already complicated school year. The funds used for the building could have been allocated to a much more worthy cause, such as improving other facets of the math classes or helping different departments.

As a theatre student, I have also seen firsthand the effects of the construction on the fine arts departments. The theatre classes pride themselves on using the space to make bold choices with their acting, and there are often several individual scenes rehearsing at once. There is also the issue of the extensive arsenal of set pieces, props, and costumes that need to be easily accessible. Because of the construction, the theatre program was given one portable to rehearse in and a few others to store materials in. It’s absurd to enter the theatre portable and see around 25 students crammed into the space, trying valiantly to rehearse their individual scenes simultaneously.

Similarly, Westwood has several choirs that require ample space with suitable acoustics to reach their full potential. My friends in choir have voiced the difficulties they faced in developing their performances in such a substandard space. Although they understand they are renovating the facilities to improve them, the fine arts classes were thriving in the old spaces but are now struggling to maintain their skills. Considering the amount of time it took to complete the new math wing after they started, many students, especially upperclassmen, don’t have high hopes that they will enjoy the space any time soon. Putting these talented classes in the portables when they already had appropriate spaces to rehearse was the wrong decision. 

Ultimately, the construction alterations have caused more harm than good at Westwood. While the renovations may benefit classes in the long term, current students face countless inconveniences as a result. Action needs to be taken to reduce the strain placed on students, and the impact on students should be carefully considered before future construction occurs.