Letter to the editor: Accessibility vital to Mount Abe plan

I would like to respond to the question posed by Angelo Lynn in a recent editorial regarding the upcoming bond vote for proposed renovations to Mount Abraham: would the renovation ever yield an outstanding result?
In every survey of students and faculty, there has been a consistent, urgent call for improvements to Mt. Abe. This call has been echoed by most members of our community. As Superintendent Reen has said, most of us agree that renovations are sorely needed.
A renovation will, without a doubt, improve the educational experience of my children. I have 12-year-old twin daughters who will enter Mt. Abe as 7th-graders next year. They both love theater, music and sports. They are engaged in many extra-curriculars at Bristol Elementary, where they are currently in 6th grade. Improving the safety, air quality, academic and athletic spaces at Mt. Abe will without a doubt improve their educational experience. But it is the much-needed changes to the accessibility of the building that will have the greatest impact, and yield the most significant results, for our family.
One of my daughters has a physical disability, requiring her to use a walker or wheelchair for mobility. Here is what our daughter will find when she goes to Mt. Abe next year as a 7th-grader: Just about every single space in the building presents barriers to her independence, some more obvious than others. There is a main entrance that she cannot access independently. There is no elevator in the middle school wing, which is two stories. There is one elevator in the high school wing, a significant distance away from the route that her peers will take to get up and down stairs. And this elevator is very cramped and ancient, often malfunctioning. There are several classrooms with dividers that have a big step up between them, so she can’t access them. And there is a chorus/band room that is completely inaccessible.
What do these barriers mean for our daughter, beyond the obvious “well, it’s tough to get from here to there?” This is a time when our children are striving to become more independent, when they are more aware of themselves in comparison to others, when peer relationships are of paramount importance, when they are developing a sense of pride in accomplishments and an awareness of challenges. Our daughter will daily be moving through a building with multiple barriers, on a route entirely separate from her friends, likely requiring the assistance of an adult to help her. Her experience will be separate and different from most everyone else.
It is way past time that we make Mt. Abraham accessible to ALL of our students as well as to anyone in our community who uses the space to attend one of the many sports, musical and other events that happen throughout the year.
Krista Siringo

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