NAPPANEE — NorthWood High School is getting an elevator.
The high school’s main gymnasium, also known as “The Pit,” was constructed with a main level walkway and descending bleachers leading down to a lower-level gymnasium. The gymnasium is the only space hosted below ground level within the school building.
“We’d been grandfathered because it was older construction and at the time the building was built, ADA had not come into effect,” Superintendent Scot Croner said. “We’re still grandfathered into it, but there is a need.”
The new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant elevator will allow wheelchair-bound students to be transported from the upper deck of the gymnasium to the main gym.
Life Skills teacher Brittney Lechlitner said having an elevator would be “fantastic” for events such as graduation ceremonies.
“Currently the only way to get them there is a ramp, which is outside the building,” she said. “Allowing these kids to participate like their peers has to be huge for their dignity.”
While none of the currently enrolled wheelchair-bound teens in the high school are in Lechlitner’s life skills class, several incoming students will be.
“The ability of having an elevator for ADA would allow for more inclusive interactions for their kids,” she said. “It really opens up the door for more seating options and more accessibility to happen there.”
Wheelchair-bound students at NorthWood already participate in adaptive physical education class, which is held in the activity center.
The activity center is a separate building detached from the main high school built with ADA access, though, so during the winter months, travel between the center and the main building can be difficult.
“This just allows more settings for that to take place,” Lechlitner said.
The new elevator will also offer increased opportunities during sporting events, where students and members of the public who need it will gain ease of access to the lower level of the gymnasium and bleachers.
“This is just one more way to help them to participate regularly,” she said.
When Lancer & Beebe, an architectural design firm out of Indianapolis, performed a facilities study on the high school, an elevator for the gymnasium was determined as a high need.
Due to funding restrictions, the elevator was not included in the 2018 high school renovation project, which included air conditioning in the annex gym, athletic center reorganization of several departments and other items.
Estimated cost for the new ADA-compliant elevator is $500,000, but officials won’t know for sure until the bids come in.