Broken elevator restricts students’ accessibility to fourth floor

The broken Welland Road elevator limited student access to the fourth floor starting this September.


The broken Welland Road elevator limited student access to the fourth floor starting this September.

Walking through busy hallways, students are drawn to pieces of yellow caution tape surrounding the fourth floor elevator.

Since September, the recently refurbished Welland Road elevator has temporarily been out of service for multiple days at a time, leaving students without easy access to the fourth floor which houses School Within a School (SWS) and other classrooms.

For most of the 2021-22 school year, SWS student and sophomore Zoë Soroka, who uses a wheelchair due to being diplegic from cerebral palsy faced the challenge of venturing up the fourth floor stairwell. Multiple times per day, SWS Program Coordinator Dan Bresman could be found hauling Soroka’s $3,000 wheelchair up and down the stairwell as she walked behind.

On Monday, March 7, Soroka began a new routine of leaving her wheelchair in an office at the bottom of the stairwell along with her school materials and carrying her computer upstairs so Bresman no longer carried the wheelchair.

To avoid being “trampled,” Soroka waited until the end of the passing period to journey up the stairs, entering class late. Although her teachers are understanding, Soroka said she felt isolated from her peers because of her delayed entrance.

“I have to reintegrate back into class, even though I just had used all my energy and focused on something, and then I go back into school mode,” Soroka said.

Soroka said she was irritated at the elevator company and school, and that this inconvenience caused her to miss the introduction period of her classes.

“I shouldn’t be having to do this,” Soroka said. “I feel frustration with the school because I’m not saying that they have a magical wand or anything, but this has been an issue since day one, so why wasn’t this fixed earlier on?”

Despite her attempts to capture the attention of administration through multiple emails, Soroka said she has not seen necessary changes.

“I feel very invisible and I understand that things can’t be fixed right away, but I’ve been trying for months to get their attention and there was little action done,” Soroka said. “I was placated with an occasional email. I’m not the only disabled person in school, so it’s like [they’re] silencing a voice.”

According to Bresman, the issue is significantly bigger than it may seem.

“I don’t want to make the mistake of people thinking it’s about a single student. It’s about the community and how we should and shouldn’t be operating,” Bresman said.

For a little over a month, Miran Stojanov has been using a cane because of his rheumatoid arthritis.

“I have to haul myself up the stairs, which slows down the people behind me. Me getting to my classes and getting the same education as everyone else should be a right,” Stojanov said.

Lack of elevator access created a challenge for Stojanov, resulting in him arriving up to ten minutes late to his classes. Stojanov receives no passes for tardies, setting a relatively high number of tardies on their transcript.

Students and staff in School Within a School (SWS) protested the Welland Road elevator’s lack of functionality during T-block on Monday, March 14 with a sit-in in the Atrium. (Contributed by @brooklinehslibrary)

Since the high school building was originally built in 1843, Assistant Head of School Hal Mason said the high school struggles with accessibility largely because of its old design.

“You have an old high school which is retro-fitted where possible to deal with code. [Today], you would never have a fourth floor [with only one] accessible way to get to,” Mason said. “You would never build a school like that.”

The elevators were refurbished as a part of the renovation organized by the construction company Skanska, which hires and manages subcontractor Delta Beckwith Elevator Company.

It is Mason’s responsibility to alert Skanska or the town’s Building Department of any issues with the elevator functionalities. According to Mason, Delta Beckwith has responded with supposed solutions to the Welland Road elevator’s failures since September, only for a new problem to arise shortly after.

“The really frustrating thing is that they kept telling us, ‘We found the problem, we fixed the problem,’” Mason said.

Mason said “high-level conversations” between lawyers representing the Building Department, Skanska and Delta Beckwith are occuring.

On Sunday, March 13, Head of School Anthony Meyer wrote to all students and staff announcing the Welland Road elevator would be returning to regular service on Monday, March 14.

“For the next few weeks, we will have an elevator mechanic in the building between the hours of 8:00am and 3:15pm in case there are any further issues with the elevator,” Meyer wrote. “We do not expect this to be the case and the company assures us the elevator is now working properly.”