BLACKFOOT — The mother of a disabled Blackfoot High School student has expressed frustration that a handicap access elevator at the school is broken and has been since the start of school two weeks ago.
Blackfoot High School principal John Pierce said the elevator was not used over the summer.
“We were not alerted to the situation until one week before school started,” Pierce said. “The elevator is currently out of service.
“We are in touch with the company [that repairs elevators],” the principal said. “We want the part appropriately fixed and installed properly for student safety.
“We work to stay in compliance and insure safety,” Pierce said.
Repairs on the elevator are set to begin during this the coming week.
“We are making accommodations for students who need the elevator,” he said. “We have relocated classrooms, used some technology and provided face time.”
“Yes, that just happened today (Tuesday) because I complained,” said patron Tina Wasia Ramos.
“This is for all children; for all who have to face this issue,” she said.
Ramos said she was told the repair of the elevator would take at least eight days, if not more.
"I am getting calls from the school saying that my child is absent from his classes,” Ramos said. “How will this affect his grades?
"They had all summer to get the elevator fixed,” she said. “Instead my child is stuck in just a couple of classes.
“It isn't right," Ramos said.
The principal said BHS has an automated attendance system. Once contacted, he said he would correct the attendance record.
The staff at BHS has provided accommodation while the elevator is down including bringing classwork from the students' assigned classes and breakfast and lunch for those students who are unable to get to the cafeteria. Parents are concerned that it isn't enough.
According to Title II of the American Disability Act (ADA), public schools are covered under "public entities." The two key provisions of Title II are that public entities must provide (1) program access (2) in an integrated setting unless separate programs are necessary to ensure equal benefits or services. Program access under Title II means that school districts are required to operate their programs so that when viewed in their entirety they are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This applies to all existing facilities.
Making structural improvements to an existing building such as installing ramps or elevators is one way of achieving program accessibility. However, structural accessibility is not required if there are alternative means of achieving program access such as providing the service at an accessible site, relocating a class or activity to a different room in the building, or having library staff retrieve books for students or teachers who use wheelchairs. Auxiliary aids and services such as interpreters would have to be provided if necessary for effective communication at school programs, conferences and other activities.
School districts are not required to take any action that would result in a fundamental alteration of the nature of the program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens. However, public entities must take any other action that would not result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden but would ensure that individuals with disabilities receive the same benefits and services offered to others without disabilities.