Principal reflects on depletion of second round of Adirondack Quad chairs

Spencer Carlson, Author

Like many others, this adirondack chair has fallen victim to its own structural weakness in the face of heavy student usage. Principal Phil Winston remains committed to providing replacement chairs for the Quad, and cited the atmospheric benefits the chairs provide.
Like many others, this adirondack chair has fallen victim to its own structural weakness in the face of heavy student usage. Principal Phil Winston remains committed to providing replacement chairs for the Quad, and cited the atmospheric benefits the chairs provide. Photo by Spencer Carlson.

Phil Winston, Palo Alto High School’s principal, plans to continue the purchase of plastic Adirondack chairs for the Quad, despite the continuous depletion of the current supply.

Winston said that a new practice of asking students to pay for chairs as administrators see students break them has been successful, in his experience.

“[We would say] ‘Hey, we saw you break a chair, it probably wasn’t on purpose, would you please pay 20 bucks — that’s half the price of the chair,'” Winston said. “And we order a new one. I can only recall three students that I’ve spoken to myself, and they’ve all been very gracious. I don’t think people break them [the chairs] on purpose — it’s a $20 chair, it’s not like they’re incredibly industrious.”

Winston maintains that the chairs come at a relatively minor cost to the school, despite some students’ concerns that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

“I think that that [the opinion that the chair money could be better spent] is an uninformed perspective,” Winston said. “The chairs cost … I think they’re about $1,000. We spend money incredibly well and efficiently here [at Palo Alto High School]. If there’s a need that’s not being met that I’m not aware of, then I need to know, and we will find a way to meet it. We’ve done a remarkable job meeting people’s needs.”

The money used to pay for the chairs is also separate from departmental funds.

“It’s a donation account we use,” Winston said. “I think ASB [Associated Student Body] paid for them the first time. [Where the chair money comes from in the future] depends on how much we get in donations. There’s no budget line for blue, green or white chairs — I wish there was.”

Paly’s ability to replace the chairs does not worry Winston.

“I am confident that somebody will step up if I say, ‘Hey, we need 100 blue chairs,'” Winston said.

Freshman Reid Walters agreed that the chairs offer a nice escape from the ground, but raised concerns about their durability.

“I think it’s a good idea to have a place where you don’t have to sit on the ground because sometimes when the grass is wet it’s nice to have another option, but they [the chairs] break a lot, unfortunately,” Walters said. “They’re not the best quality, because if you sit on them the wrong way, they just snap.”

Senior Dana Donnelly worries about the amount of waste created by broken chairs.

“I think it’s a travesty that chairs have broken and we recycle them,” Donnelly said. “It’s obviously so wasteful.”

Although he acknowledged that the broken chairs create a significant amount of waste, Winston noted that plastic chairs are far more economical than a sturdier alternative.

“I would defend something that’s more sustainable,” Winston said. “But there is such a huge cost difference between what we pay for these ones and what we’d pay for a wooden chair. And I rest easy even though they [the plastic chairs] get broken because they’re recyclable. So we recycle them.”

Winston feels that the chairs are a privilege Paly is fortunate to enjoy, and acknowledges that the opportunity would not exist at other schools.

“Find another high school that has Adirondack chairs out,” Winston said. “I can’t think of another one that does.”

The chairs are well worth their cost, Winston said. They offer both a place for students to hang out and for teachers to take their classes in good weather.

“I think it adds a really nice texture on campus,” Winston said. “I also think it’s kind of nice to see them spread about campus differently. I know there are a couple on the lacrosse field. For me, it’s nice to be able to walk out and see students relaxing and socializing, not sitting on the ground. School can be a stressful place, so it’s a little thing that we can do to remove a bit of that stress.”