Health & safety concerns at Smith Vocational High School

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Despite their best efforts, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton is struggling to meet the health and safety standards they need to stay accredited.

The school was established in 1908 and the buildings on the campus of Smith Vocational are crumbling into disrepair.

Our 22News cameras found leaking roofs, broken ceiling tiles, cracked foundations, taped pipes, and peeling paint, along with more serious issues. “This floor has to be 70 or 80 years old so we definitely need a new one here,” said Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Superintendent Jeff Peterson.

On this day, teachers were excited just to have heat. “Our students were cold, our faculty was cold,” said teacher Kathleen Long. “We passed out blankets and we had them fold up the blankets at the end of the day and out them under their desk for the next day.”

Superintendent Peterson continued the tour by showing us a classroom window covered by plastic. “So we’ve had to be creative,” said Peterson. “We put plastic over the windows because the breeze was coming through the windows so bad that the kids were freezing, so this is some of our handy work.”

Peterson said they often enlist students in the plumbing program to help with repairs around the school. The school’s old cafeteria would serve as an emergency Red Cross shelter for the community during a disaster.

“It’s a challenge when we’re more focused on the structural components of the campus and not the instructional components of the campus,” said school Principal Andrew Linkenhoker.

The biggest concern for Superintendent Peterson is the safety of the students, faculty and staff. Exterior doors remain unlocked and interior classroom doors can only be locked from the outside. “If there’s an intruder or a problem in the hallway and we have to do a lock down, the teacher would have to come to the door, open the door, come outside, lock it with a key,” said Peterson.

Schools officials say they desperately need a new school. They have 420 students, 15 vocational programs and serve 60 cities and towns.

As it stands now, if Smith Vocational were to get a new school, the city of Northampton would be responsible for 100% of the local funding. They’re trying to change the governing structure of the school to get more state money.

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