Administration takes steps to reduce construction noise pollution

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

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Seniors Ashley Swendseid and Emily Howard pass by construction next to the 700 building. The Paly administration plans to install noise blankets here as well.

– Suzanna Ackroyd

The Palo Alto High School administration plans to place noise reduction blankets around campus construction areas and implement voice amplification systems in classrooms in an effort to combat noise emitted by the construction of the media center and math and social sciences buildings.

“It [the noise] is something we’re working on,” Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson said.

The contruction project, according to Berkson, is estimated to be completed 22 months from its start date last Monday, Aug. 22.

The two buildings being built will be a media center housing photography, video production and journalism/English classrooms as well as a math and social sciences building. Contruction only began the day before the school year commenced due to the timing of the bid and that the contractors started as early as they possibly could, according to Principal Phil Winston.

The administration has offered voice amplification systems to all teachers and the school will buy as many sets as needed, according to Berkson and Winston. Noise blankets will also cover fencing and will hopefully keep the noise levels down in classrooms. Winston is not yet sure when the noise blankets will be put in place.

Four amplification systems are already in use, Winston said.

“I think the FM [amplification] systems will make a huge difference, particularly in the language classes,” Winston added.

Many teachers close to the construction sites who are impacted by the noise are still adjusting to it.

“It’s loud and it’s frustrating … especially [for the students] when we write in-class essays,” humanities teacher Lucy Filppu said. “It [the noise] is almost the antithesis of learning, but it’s what we have to do.”

Math teacher and Instructional Supervisor Radu Toma also commented on the math department’s impressions of construction noise in the classrooms.

“So far it’s been manageable and it hasn’t been too bad,” Toma said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that we can live with it. So far we can.”

Though the consensus is that the noise is an inconvenience, most agree that what is to be gained merits the sacrifice.

“It’s like living though an institutionalized [house] remodel,” Filppu said. “This is our space. We [teachers] are here all the time, but we know it’ll be a beautiful house someday so it’s worth it.”

Toma echoed this sentiment, saying “We’re psyched that we’re going to have a new building, so for now we’ll deal with it [the noise].”

Winston, who said he has personally experienced the noise in affected classrooms, also holds an optimistic view.

“I have been in all the classrooms … and I was visiting all last week,” Winston said. “When the door is closed, it has been louder than last year but it’s not as bad as someone banging on the door.”

And as far as the principal’s impression with how the staff is acclimating, he had only positive things to say.

“The people are outstanding … they have been awesome,” Winston continued.