It took only one question to solve a sticky situation.
Three doors allow entry and exit from the Large Auditorium lobby. Since the beginning of school, the center door has frustrated users because it required extra strength to open; on first push, it felt locked. The doors were installed at the end of last school year under former Superintendent Mark Freeman’s instructions.
The sticky center door, however, caused students and teachers to change their entry and exit habits. By the end of the first semester, they could be seen avoiding the center door in favor of those that flank it.
“It’s an annoyance and a safety hazard,” social studies teacher Brian Berger said in early March. “I have trained myself not to use the door. My issue is that a fit person can open the door but not necessarily someone with their hands full. I believe a small child could not open it.”
“It’s not stuck; its snug,” chief custodian Sean Brown Sr. said. “I have not heard anyone complain about it or say they couldn’t open it.”
Students such as freshman Sienna Jackson believe the problem of the door extended beyond inconvenience. “I believe it could be a fire hazard,” Jackson said.
A sticky door could pose a threat in an emergency. However, Assistant Shaker Heights Fire Chief Wayne Johnson said that although a sticky door is an issue, it does not require fire department intervention. “If exit doors are locked,” however, “it is dangerous and it will be addressed” because it is against code.
Brown said no hazard exists. “It’s not a fire hazard because these doors are not locked,” he said.
“The last time we checked the high school was January 24,” said Johnson. “Occasionally we have problems with doors, although I can’t recall any at the high school. Doors can be a problem at this time of the year because of the extreme weather conditions.
“Any time schools identify problems, they readily take care of them,” Johnson said.
Doors have posed a problem during school fires in the past. In March 1908, a fire broke out at the Lakeview Elementary School in Cleveland. One hundred seventy-two students and two teachers died because the school’s doors opened inward. As the volume of students increased and pressed against the doors, those closest to the doors could not open them to escape.
The fire, which occurred in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood, led to the establishment of many new fire precautions in schools worldwide. Laws were passed requiring all doors of public buildings to open outward and to be easy to open.
The sticky door has since been fixed after a Shakerite inquiry.
“We had the company come out. It was under warranty,” Brown said. “They said it was the weather stripping. It was tight.”