Cleveland High School's gleaming new three-building complex on Beacon Hill's western slope has state-of-the-art science labs overlooking Mount Rainier, art rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, anti-graffiti walls covered with natural fibers, and whiteboards that can digitize the lessons written upon them in e-mailable form. The school's predominantly minority students walk into the place and gush that it's "like a mansion," according to drama and language-arts teacher Faith Beatty, a particularly gratifying experience since she says they feel that they've been "shafted so many times before."
But there's one thing the $67 million renovation did not provide: lockers. "It's very irritating," says sophomore Luciano Tong. "The only lockers they have are in the gym," he says, and those are to be used during gym class only. Like many students, Tong says that carrying his books around all the time gets heavy. And some students have more to lug around than books: Tong has seen football team players drag their uniforms—shoulder pads and all—with them to every class.
"I had a student with a skateboard," Beatty adds. "I started to say, 'Go put it in your locker.'" Then she remembered there weren't any.
While locker-free schools are a national trend due to safety concerns—weapons and drugs being obvious things lockers can store—Frank Chinn, a retired principal who is acting as a consultant to Cleveland on building issues, says the no-locker design there had a different origin. "A long time ago, in the design phase," he says, meaning back in 2002, "there were four school design teams working on the school model." He says those teams corresponded to the four "academies" that the school was planning to implement with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the teams judged that lockers weren't necessary in the smaller environments of each school-within-a-school. Chinn wears a knowing smile as he explains this recently in the school office, perhaps because, now that staff and students have actually moved into the building, only two watered-down versions of the four envisioned academies remain (see "Spend Wisely, or Else," Sept. 19).
Beatty, however, remembers only one design team (she says she attended almost every meeting) and no conversations about doing away with lockers. Eleanor Trainor, the Seattle Public School District's community liaison for capital projects, says she doesn't know exactly how the decision was made. In any case, parents have been complaining, according to Assistant Principal Marjorie Milligan. The district has now decided to bring in 500 lockers, Trainor says, which are due to arrive in about six weeks.