by Lisa Tome
Before they could hit the books this school year, the Perryville High students and parents have had to learn to navigate the building. The first major change to the school entry since the building opened in 1977 was in full effect this new school year.
"When I first saw it, I said, ‘Wow, this is different. It's a maze’," said the school's resource officer DFC Stavros Plagianakos. "The signs have been placed since August. There's been a lot of confusion and it's taking so long. It would have been nice if it was finished before the new school year. Everything is different now. Everything has changed up there (at the entrance)."
Principal Justin Zimmerman said that the project has been fine-tuned along the way. It had to be tweaked to allow student traffic flow. Instead of entering from a set up double doors on the side of the building, traffic is now funneled into the middle of the building. Once school begins for the day, everyone enters through those doors and checks in at the main office. Zimmerman said he's been trying to keep everyone up to date on the project with weekly updates in the school newsletter.
The school office has also been reconfigured. The front office desk was rebuilt and relocated. A former copier room was moved. The school nurse's office has a new entrance and is now American Disabilities Act compliant. The attendance office is now inside the main office instead of just inside the building.
Rhonda Jones has worked at the school for a year and a half as the lead secretary. "With the students, it's all new this year. The students are catching on. But we do have questions about the flow of things. We have signs everywhere," said Jones. She explained that while the work was ongoing, students had to revert back to the old system and then return to the new system of entering and exiting the building, further adding to the confusion.
"Parents have said that the signs on the door help. I've gotten used to it. Like Mr. Zimmerman said, the way they (contractors) explained it, it was hard to imagine. For me, the new side doors, I forget and now I have to walk all the way around. That's the hardest thing to get used to," said Jones. "But so far it's working out well. It will probably take me the whole school year to get used to it."
Dorothy Peterson is the school's attendance secretary. She worked in the building for five years, was gone for two years, and is back again. "It's fine. It's much better. I'm warmer now not being right by the door. The first time, people don't know their way around, but once they learn the pattern they're fine," said Peterson.
If all goes as planned, the work will be finished October 1. There is a wait for new doors to be delivered. "We're excited for it to be finished and get into the daily routine," said Zimmerman.