Handicapped platforms have recently been added to the seating area at the Herndon Gym, thanks to four high school seniors, Yriel Ibarra, Keith Hedberg, Jaden Grilliot, Connor Ochs. Superintendent Paul Larkin explained the project was brought about with input from someone who attended an event at the gym, commenting there was no good place to safely and easily park a wheelchair in the facility.
If the wheelchair is placed in front of the bleacher, there is traffic crossing in front of the individual all the time, and if parked on the gym floor, there is a danger of obstructing the ongoing activity, not to mention gaining access on the lower level. Addressing the problem, Larkin contacted the architect who the district consults on various projects, which led to contacting the bleacher company.
The company came out and manufactured the A.D.A platforms, including the railing all while bracing underneath to keep the warranty in affect. “The problem was the platform was not level with the concrete, some rework had to be done, making it level,” said Larkin.
That is where the expertise of Ibarra, Hedberg, Grilliot, and Ochs came in. These gentlemen have taken several classes over the last four years of high school such as agriculture structures, ag power and most recently are involved in the FFA Ag Internship program under Tom Zuzelski, Intro to Ag and Ag Structures teacher. Due to their experience in the agricultural industry, they were uniquely qualified to make the necessary adjustments and construct the gates for the four platforms. “These four gentlemen are awesome and talented beyond reproach and their skill level is amazing,” said Zuzelski. When Zuzelski was in the construction industry, he did not see anyone, welding wise, who had the talent that two of them do. “Which surprised me to death, the level of ability for the age they are!”
Items to be considered were dimensions of the gates, meeting A.D.A regulations, matching the railing and hinges to the existing railing, leveling the platforms, which poles needed to be cut so the gates could swing and not hit the other gates that lead to the stairs on the court, and adjustments to two of the four projects since each side had to swing different, and how to protect the area so no damage was done.
Time was of the essence as the project needed to be completed in between volleyball and basketball seasons. “They had to have permission from all their teachers to get out of classes,” explained Principal Paul Zuzleski. The boys admitted they did have to catch up on their schoolwork in the evenings to keep the deadline.
The four built a tent around the work area. Then removed the platform. Working underneath, the legs had to be cut off to level the platform, lining up with the concrete walkway. Then rewelding the legs. Once the platform was leveled, they began cutting the existing pipe, thus gaining access from the concrete walkway to the platform. “Cutting the pipe was definitely the hardest part,” said Hedberg.
Using the handrails they cut out, they began reconstructing the gates using a MIG (metal inert gas) welder. Ochs explained the MIG welder doesn’t react with the atmosphere so it can shield the wire welding to keep it clean
Where the bare metal is exposed on the gates, they needed to paint them to match the black rails on the platform. In order for the gates, platforms and existing handrails to match, the decision was made to paint all of them black. Larkin contacted Coleman Sprinkler, who had done painting when the gym was being built, to paint all the handrails to match the platforms and gates. “They did a great job and were able to complete the project in the short amount of time,” said Larkin.
Phyllis Horning who has experienced some challenges when bringing her sister to activities thinks it’s great to have this done and hopes her sister will be able to attend some games to take advantage of the platforms, “I hope it works well for her.”
Jed Simon, instructor for Ag Power and Metals I and II said, “These four boys are probably the best in the program, needing very little guidance or instruction to get the job done and completed the job in the time allotted in a very professional manner.”
He was proud of them and when they needed help, they asked. Otherwise they worked on their own without supervision. “I hope there are more in the future like them!”
As a parent of a child in a wheelchair, Laryce Schwieterman said, “I found out with our daughter that until you have someone in a wheelchair, you might not necessarily notice what is needed to get them where you need to go.” She went on to explain that for those with disabilities, it is important for them to participate and enjoy school functions without it being difficult to do so, “I commend these students for thinking of others.”
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