With Unreliable Lift, Bellevue Looks for Answer for Wheelchair Users
The issue of accessibility arose at the Bellevue board of education meeting last week.
Multiple families asked the board and Superintendent Robb Smith what was being done to make Bellevue High School permanently accessible to the disabled.
The school was built in 1930, and during renovations in the 1980s, an elevator was added, but entering through the main entrance is still a challenge for those in a wheelchair.
There are two students in the district who use wheelchairs. Haley Wooding is a sophomore, and Parker Kern is in fifth grade at Grandview Elementary where there is a ramp. But next year could be more challenging when Kern enters sixth grade at the high school building.
"I hate to have to tell Parker or Haley our lift is broken again," said Smith, referring to the two wheelchair-bound students in the district.
There are about six steps for students to take before arriving on the main level of the school. Smith compared it to a split-level home.
An industrial lift is available to students in wheelchairs, but it has broken down multiple times and was out of service last week.
"The lifts aren't reliable," Smith said. "And a portable ramp is not ideal by any standards. They could be a safety risk. The front is too steep of a trajectory for a ramp."
"It is not acceptable for a child to miss even one day of school because they can't get into the school," said Bridget Vogt, who attending the meeting with concerned families.
"I want what they want," Smith said. "It's not us and you, we are a team."
Smith met with architects about the feasibility of possibly reconfiguring the front entrance, which could include bumping it out since there is no room for the necessary angle related to a permanent ramp.
The cost was between $250,000 and $500,000, he said. Grant writers are looking for funding.
Snith said he hates to pass the cost along to taxpayers, but the district offers a low rate, he said. But such a project would consume most of the district's contingency fund, he said.
Smith said that he would reach out to State Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder), who represents Bellevue in Frankfort, to see if there are state funds available.
Smith noted his displeasure with an $8 million grant awarded to a Fort Thomas school, which he said was secured by State Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder), who also represents Bellevue in Frankfort. Smith said that Bellevue would have been more in need of such funds and that he is tired of inequity in funding.
But, he added, that the district will figure it out.
"I am very proud to be in a district where people feel comfortable enough to come to talk to me," he said. "I listen. The board listens. My goal is to have an accessible entrance by the beginning of next school year. I want to let the kids know they're all important. We've got people working on this. We're going to be fine."
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor