School improvement process stalls under district procedures

Alison Pinchney | Raider Staff

The courtyard remains empty in the wintertime at LCHS. Teachers and students have helped to update the courtyard whenever possible, mostly through volunteer projects done by Latin and Senior Outreach. Raider Staff Photographer: Alison Pinchney

For years, students have felt embarrassed about our school. From the point of view of students, the bathrooms are neglected, the courtyard is barren, and the school looks old. But if we find out what really goes into changing the school, maybe we wouldn’t be so critical and perhaps would come to love our school and have pride about it.

Principal Michelle Luttrell has been trying for years to improve the environment of the school, but getting things approved is another story. “I have current work orders out requesting improvements to the student and staff bathrooms, to close the alley in order to create more classrooms, and to improve some of our fine and performing arts instructional spaces,” Luttrell said.
“All of these things can happen,” Luttrell said. “It is just a matter of whether or not the division will approve and make it happen.”

The Loudoun County Public Schools division is in charge of what is amended or made new in all school or administrative buildings in Loudoun County. They have their own priorities, and not even a principal can force them to act.

The process of making changes is a complicated one, which is why it may feel that the administrators are neglecting the school, for it takes large amounts of time to make change.

According to Luttrell, the first step is examination. “We work very closely with our Building Engineer to examine and inspect our building and campus on a daily basis to ensure equipment, facilities, and supports are safe and operable to support our learning environment,” Luttrell said.

If something is wrong, Luttrell takes that information, with feedback provided by staff, and submits work orders when needed to repair or replace items on an ongoing basis.

Most of these get carried out quickly, but situations like broken doors and locks in the bathroom, school graffiti, or the barren courtyard take more time to change.

Luttrell also submits requests in anticipation of long-term projects needed to support her efforts to create a safe working and learning environment.

“The division has a team called Property Improvement Review Team (PIRT) that receives, reviews, and prioritizes work orders from over 90 buildings in LCPS,” Luttrell said. “To put the volume of requests they receive in perspective, you should know we have submitted over 3,000 work orders in the past five years. I am not sure how many work orders other buildings send, but keep in mind there are 90 campuses in the division submitting similar requests.”

This explains why not everything can be fixed immediately. LCHS has an automated system called SchoolDude that captures all of the facility requests that eventually land in the PIRT review folder if the work is beyond the scope of the Building Engineer.

“There are only a handful of individuals on campus that can submit a work order so we can control what is being processed to the division,” Luttrell said. “We can submit work orders involving a range of resources to include, but not limited to construction, carpentry, furniture repairs, HVAC, clocks/bells, and plumbing.”

As for why the teacher work room and the school windows were renovated before the school bathroom, Luttrell explained that the funding for the furniture in the teacher workroom came from the school and did not require a work order since there was no “construction or work done.”

The division provides new furniture, carpet, and new paint on a cycle. Some of the cycles are ten to 20 years in rotation. The windows were paid for by the division.

In the past five years, Luttrell has been supported by the division for several major improvements to the school, including handicap access to the front of the school, receiving new windows to the original part of the school, a new roof, new NJROTC building, and transforming computer labs into classrooms.

Luttrell knows that the school is over 60 years old and that some things simply can’t be fixed due to the infrastructure of the building, but many things have been improved, and many more things in the future will be changed to benefit our environment.

“I am very proud to be a Raider,” Luttrell said. “We have a beautiful school, rich with history and tradition. I am honored to be a member of our school community. Our school was built in 1954 and is in great condition because so many people take pride in our community and do their part to maintain the facility and keep it and the campus clean.”

Luttrell continually looks for ways to improve our building for safety and instruction. With this in mind, it seems that the school is in no way neglected, but rather cared for deeply.