Parent complains about school elevator

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska Public Schools officials listened Nov. 21 to a plea from a parent to repair an elevator in the Junior High School.

Amy Dwerlkotte, whose 12-year-old daughter is a student at Pawhuska Junior High School, said she contacted Superintendent David Cash and Assistant Superintendent Beverly Moore in March 2022 about the elevator in the school. Ms. Dwerlkotte indicated the elevator broke down on Aug. 25, which was the first day of the 2022-23 school year in the Pawhuska district, and it has remained out of service ever since. The situation is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, she said.

“We’re really disappointed in the fact that our elevator has not been fixed in the Junior High,” Dwerlkotte said. “I just am really disappointed and I don’t know what else to say. I don’t understand why this is not fixed.”

Dwerlkotte said her daughter, Son Wi Sellers, has cerebral palsy. Sellers, who accompanied her mother to the Pawhuska Board of Education meeting on Nov. 21, said she uses the stairs in the school building.

“I have walked up and down the stairs every single day,” Sellers said. “It wears me out so bad.”

Sellers said she has talked to Chris Walker, the principal of the Junior High, and he has been supportive of her. She added that she isn’t just concerned about herself. There are other students who face challenges with the stairs, she said.

“There’s other kids besides her,” Dwerlkotte said. “It’s not just about her. It’s about kids with disabilities, with broken legs. If she were to fall, something were to happen, you guys are up for a huge lawsuit. I’m not saying that in a threatening way. I’m just saying that’s a child with a disability and if she falls and breaks something, you guys that’s not OK. Sorry, I’m furious.”

Sellers, who has been a student in Pawhuska Public Schools since Pre-K, characterized the situation with the elevator as “ridiculous.”

Superintendent Cash provided information in response during the meeting, describing the school district’s experience with the elevator in the Junior High. Cash said the district arranged with an elevator company in June to have the school elevator repaired and in service by Aug. 25, the opening day of the first semester of the 2022-23 instructional year. The elevator was reportedly in service by that date, but broke down almost immediately.

Cash mentioned a series of dates between Aug. 25 and Oct. 19 on which the school district and the elevator company it hired had contact about the elevator in Pawhuska Junior High School. He said the company on Oct. 19 told the school district that there were no parts available to repair that particular elevator.

“At that point in time, we said we need a permanent solution,” Cash said. He added that a state inspector was scheduled to visit the school district during the school week of Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 (this week) and provide information on everything needed to make the elevator functional and compliant with regulations.

Cash said that he thought the school district should have been told in June that parts to repair the Junior High elevator were not available, and he said that he felt the school district had been lied to.

Cash also said that, if necessary, the school district can look at alternative solutions, such as moving all of Son Wi Sellers’s classes to the first floor of the Junior High.