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School lockers becoming extinct?

8:06 AM, Dec 6, 2011   |    comments
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Credit: AP/file.

St. Louis (KSDK)- Walk through the halls of Parkway West High School and you will quickly notice that many lockers are unlocked and sit empty.

Not too far away at Ladue Horton Watkins High School you see locks on the lockers, but the majority of students aren't stopping at them between periods to get books.

"I do have a locker assigned to me, but I couldn't tell you the number or where it is," Junior, Samantha Shanker said.

All of the students we spoke with at Parkway West and Ladue, estimate about 95% of upperclassmen don't use lockers.

"I see a lot of students carrying around very heavy backpacks, with their locker with them, a portable locker," said Eileen Kiser, spanish teacher at Parkway West.

Several reasons are given when you ask "why" students today don't use lockers; don't have as many books because of newer technology, rather carry all items with them, and lockers are no longer used as a gathering spot to talk to classmates.

"Our lockers aren't meeting places anymore because we are talking a lot through texts, so we don't have to meet and share gossip at the lockers or anything," Shanker said.

While we found no schools locally that have done away with lockers, a recent USA Today article says it's a growing trend. KAI Design and Build, an architecture firm based in St. Louis, has designed two schools without lockers in Texas. KAI President, Darren James feels its only a matter of time before you see new schools in St. Louis being built lockerless. James says their statistics also show about 95 percent of students don't use lockers. Some local teachers also feel, lockerless schools could be in the future.

"I asked the kids, 'how would you feel if we built a new building and it didn't have lockers?' they said 'forget the lockers, we don't need them, we don't need them.'"

Many local parents weighing in on the USA Today article, don't want to see lockers go away because they feel the large backpacks are bad for their child's back.

READ THE USA TODAY STORY BELOW

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Hall lockers? Some schools say no

By Elizabeth Crisp, USA TODAY

Walk down any hallway in the new Germantown High School in Madison, Miss., and one thing stands out: You won't spot a single locker.

Lockers have served as a symbol of the American high school for decades, but with new technology - eBooks, interactive assignments and Web-based learning - they become a thing of the past.

It's unclear how many schools have gone lockerless, but New York architect Peter Lippman, who serves on the American Institute of Architects' Committee on Architecture for Education, said the trend is growing.

"If you are talking about new technology - electronic textbooks, iPads and things like that - maybe there is no need for a locker," he said. "I'm not sure every school is there yet, but it does provide some opportunities."

School officials that have made the jump to lockerless cite several benefits: less noise, fewer tardies, an increased sense of safety.

"It's all to create an environment that's student friendly," said Ronnie McGehee, interim superintendent of the Madison County, Miss., School District.

It also can cut hundreds of thousands in construction costs. Madison County saved $200,000 by not including lockers in the new high school, McGehee said.

In addition to new schools that are built without lockers, some districts are removing them from older buildings.

The Temple, Texas, Independent School District removed lockers from its three middle schools last year.

"It was kind of a win all-around," district spokeswoman Regina Corley said. "I think this is just the direction things are moving," she said. "As you see more technology, including electronic textbooks, the need for the old locker of the past will decrease."

Corely said they likely will remove lockers from the high school but there is no official time line.

Keys to Safer Schools, an Arkansas-based safety training and advocacy group, has recommended that school districts remove lockers to prevent violence.

"It gives kids a place to hide things," said Mike Nelson, co-founder of Keys to Safer Schools and a licensed counselor.

Nelson said he believes that some school shootings and other incidences could have been prevented if there were no lockers.

"I think it's a way to manage students," he said.

McGehee said the Madison district initially considered doing away with lockers in 1997 after a school shooting just 20 miles south in Pearl, Miss.

Aside from protecting students against violence, McGehee said doing away with lockers has eliminated some opportunities for bullying and ended a territorialism over certain sections of hallways.

"There are just a number of issues we can solve early on," he said. "To me, it creates a whole systematic change."

Andrew Booth, a 10th-grader at Germantown High, said there are some drawbacks to not having a locker, though.

"It can make your book bag really heavy," he said. "That's the only thing I would really say is a problem with it."

Booth, 16, has four textbooks "plus notebooks and a binder" to carry to school each day.

He said some teachers are accommodating: They have shelves for students to leave their heavy bags in the back of the classroom.

Others provide an extra set of textbooks in the classroom, so students don't have to lug their books from home.

Lippman said schools will have to address such concerns and find ways to give students a "sense of space."

"If you are carrying books around, it does limit your flexibility in the classrooms," he said. "Where is this stuff going?"

Lippman said he would like to see schools start to use the new free space to provide less structured learning opportunities for students, including gathering areas and learning centers.

"Designers and architects are really beginning to look at how to support different learning styles," he said. "If you think about a school with just rows and rows of lockers - there's nowhere for learning opportunities in that."

Contributing: Crisp also reports for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.

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