Waverley Place entrance to be remodeled at the end of this school year

Emily Forgash and Izzy Harris

Major construction to the Waverley Place entrance of the school will take place from June 18 until the end of the first semester of the 2018-2019 school year, according to an email sent by Head of School Robin Appleby on April 23.

Following the recent terrorist attacks in France and England, the administration identified the need to remodel the school’s entrance, in order to enhance security. “What triggered the analysis of our security were things that happened starting in 2015 in Europe that are of concern to security,” Appleby said. “People wanted to get into buildings and harm others, so the school at the time conducted a full-scale analysis of all of our security arrangements.”

Funding for this project began in 2016 after an analysis conducted by ARUP Consulting was completed. Director of Advancement Beth Crutcher believed that the best way to fund the project was through a private selection. The Advancement Office reached out to individual families they believed would support the cause. Roughly 50 donors pledged to donate to the Waverley Project, raising around £2.1 million. “People who are interested may prioritize this in their philanthropy, and may be interested to give to security,” Crutcher said.

The administration is using this opportunity to enhance the security as well as remodel the Waverley Place steps, as the current entrance was last modified nearly 18 years ago. “[The steps] needed to be replaced anyway,” Director of Operations Jim Heynderickx said. “Right now compared to new academy schools in the U.K., our current entrance is relatively open to the public sidewalk down below,” he said.

Head of Security Roi Yefet agrees with Heyndrickx, as part of the project is to upgrade the steps at the Waverley entrance. “We are doing all these changes because of security, but when you see it, it’s not going to look like a security reason,” Yefet said.

Photo from Westminster Archives 

As stated in the email, the new entrance is one of many measures the school is taking to enhance school security. In anticipation of the improved Waverley entrance, new safety measures have taken place throughout the 2017-2018 school year. For example, Lower and Middle School students must now enter through a fire exit to the right of the main entrance in the morning, and all others require an ID to gain entry through the main entrance of Waverley Place.

Access Control Officer Bhupendra Patel sees a major shift in how people approach security now. “When I started [working at ASL] in 1998, we didn’t have school IDs or anything,” Patel said. “Now the world is changing…[especially] after 9/11.”

The remodeling of the Waverley entrance will separate the school from Waverley Place below which will help make the school safer. “The new entrance plan is a restructuring of the front entrance that allows us to push the barrier out a little bit more farther away from the doors. There will be a [glass] canopy over the steps so that people will be able to wait on the steps for pick up and be out of the rain. People will come through those [new] entrance gates to come into the school,” Appleby said. The glass encasement will create a lane for students and visitors to streamline into the building in a safe, effective manner, all while still being outside of the main building.

“We will also have the opportunity to install a lift for people who need to use a wheelchair or for families that have prams because right now they have to carry those prams up the stairs, and anyone who had to use a wheelchair had to come in through the side loading gate,” Appleby said.

While Waverley Place undergoes construction, students, faculty, parents, and visitors will use a temporary entrance through the gate near the Community Arts Building. The reception desk at the current Waverley entrance will be temporarily moved into the art gallery. “We’ll have security people outside that gate checking IDs before people go in there,” Appleby said.

Appleby believes that security at ASL is incredibly important and that this project streamlines this belief. “The number one responsibility we have as administration is to keep our community safe– our students, our teachers, our staff, our parents,” she said. “If you’ve undergone a security analysis that says there are certain things you could be doing better, you want to take that seriously.”