Wootton Students Call on Board of Education to Renovate School Over ADA Violations

Students called on the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) to renovate Thomas S. Wootton High School during a Thursday board meeting. The school is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the condition of the school makes learning difficult, the students said.

A 2019 report commissioned by the BOE found 380 ADA violations at Wootton.

“This renovation is not simply a want, It is a need to keep students safe,” Yana Kohli, a junior at Wootton, said told the board.

The school is on a “non-recommended reductions” list, meaning that the school will likely either have funding for renovations delayed until 2029 or all funds removed until an undetermined date, according to testimony from Rockville Mayor Monique Ashton.

The board created the list after Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced budget reductions in his Capital Improvement Plan recommendation, Ashton said.

County leaders have continuously pushed back planned renovations of Wootton, which is now recommended by the board to be remodeled by 2029.

The BOE requested the renovations to be completed by 2026, but the Montgomery County Council pushed the deadline to 2027, according to Capital Improvement Plan documents.

The possible ADA violations came to the forefront of some students minds during the evacuation of their school after a bomb threat.

Ashi Stanislaus, a junior at Wootton, said to the board that she saw multiple students in wheelchairs struggle to evacuate quickly. Heavy exit doors, uneven tiles and bumps at the door frame all prevented students from exiting the building.

Stanislaus and other students lifted their classmates in wheelchairs to get through the doors, she said. But once they were outside, the students were met with more obstacles: a hill with cracks and bumps in the pavement.

The student called Wootton’s infrastructure an “unacceptable risk” to both students with disabilities and the entire student population at the Thursday meeting.

“Our students should not have to worry about whether they can escape a bomb threat due to Wootton’s inability to prioritize basic accessible infrastructure,” Stanislaus said. “By pushing back the renovation date you are not only putting the current Wootton students in danger but the future classes to come.”

Another student who witnessed chaos that day was Claire Lenkin. She has seen the impact of too few ramps and uneven pathways multiple times, including Tuesday.

This was when Lenkin said a burst pipe caused a flood, which eventually shut down part of her school.

Wootton, which opened in 1970, has never had a significant overhaul. This includes the aftermath of the ADA passed, Lenkin said.

“Since the ADA’s passing in 1990, our school has only fallen into more disrepair,” Lenkin said at the board meeting.

This is not the first time Wootton students have pushed for their school’s renovation. The movement, led by leaders in the student government, began around three years ago with then-junior Catherine Contreras, according to The Washington Post. Since then, groups of students have spoken at multiple school board meetings, all calling for this renovation.

Students have also documented their experience at Wootton. They started two Instagram accounts, @whs_needstobe.renovated and @wootton.infrastructure, both dedicated to posting photos of their deteriorating school. Photos show multiple ceiling leaks, rusty sinks and dead mice found throughout the school.



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