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What If There’s A Fire?!

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | October 4, 2021

My school was overcrowded. We had around ten times as many students as the building was originally built for. This led to some issues.

One issue was that students were always late to class. The building was built in a cross shape. Students were continually funneled from one side of the building to another, and the only way through was a narrow four-way intersection hallway that was built when kids were skinnier; it was wide enough to fit two skinny kids, one and a half normal kids, or one big kid.

Worse, freshman lockers were on the top floor and our classes were all on the bottom floor. Senior lockers were on the bottom floor and their classes on the top floor. Regardless, everyone was going to the bottom floor because there was no intersection between the four lobes of the school on any floor but the first floor.

We used to be able to go through the library on the second floor, which was much wider, in my first year. They locked the “back” doors to the library to stop students from doing that, making the traffic jam much worse.

The administration’s solution was to increase time between classes. My first year, they gave us five minutes to get from one class to the next. By the time I graduated, we were given fifteen minutes.

Another side effect of this overcrowding was that the cafeteria was too small to fit all of us, and the lines were too long for all of us to get fed. To help with the fitting problem, they broke lunch into two different forty-five-minute lunches my first semester. They still couldn’t fit everyone in, so they broke it into three different thirty-minute lunches in my second semester. That didn’t work, either, so they broke it into four different fifteen-minute lunches, year two and on.

Remember the cross shape of our school? The cafeteria was in the basement, and the stairs into it were right by the four-way intersection.

The funniest, most hilarious result of this was the fire inspections.

We had more students per room than were allowed. We had more chairs per room than allowed. Each room had several folding chairs hidden in the storage closets that had to be taken down between classes and reopened when the students came.

Some students carried their own cloth folding chairs through the hall, like people use for fireworks or sporting events.

Fire inspection days were marked on the calendar. The whole student body came together the day before to empty most of the chairs out of the classrooms and get them to the chair storage room in the basement next to the cafeteria.

Then, on the actual fire inspection day, each classroom would have maybe twenty to thirty students instead of the seventy to ninety they usually had — the larger classrooms usually kept sixty of 200 or so — and a student-teacher or a temp would lecture the kids actually in the classroom, who were usually the highest-graded students.

The actual teachers and remaining kids from each class were taken to the bleachers around the football field, the bleachers in the gym around the basketball court and hockey rinks, the swimming pool bleachers, the wrestling bleachers, the bleachers around the track, the bleachers around the soccer field, and the baseball bleachers, and they would hold classes on those precarious structures. Even the tennis court bleachers would be filled with students and teachers!

I always wondered if we could get enough space to actually fit all our students if we got rid of the more than ten different sports complexes we had.

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