JOLIET – Joliet West High School’s new main entrance is more than a main entrance.
“It’s spectacular,” senior Anthony M. Contos said.
It’s nothing fancy, really.
But at 3,523 square feet with a metal detector, police liaison office, bag check area, waiting area and two conference rooms, the latest addition to Joliet West manages to increase security while creating a more welcoming atmosphere for students and visitors.
“Especially with what happened recently,” Contos said, referring to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “We’re lucky we had this project going on beforehand. It will help having the police liaison office here.”
“I think it makes the school look professional,” Joliet West senior Kayli Glidic said.
Glidic and Contos were among students, school officials and visitors celebrating a grand opening Thursday for the $2.5 million addition to Joliet West.
The previous front entrance consisted of a set of double doors that visitors would walk through to get into a hallway where a metal detector, table and security area that resembled a tollbooth awaited.
It was a tight space, where students and visitors were close together at times, Glidic said.
“You’d get your bag checked in front of them, and it was a little weird,” she said.
Explaining the importance of the new entrance to people unfamiliar with the school has been difficult at times, Joliet Township High School District 204 Superintendent Cheryl McCarthy said.
“Everybody thinks, ‘Why did you build a new front door?’ ” McCarthy said at the brief ceremony. “For the longest time when you entered this building, you were entering a hallway. That will no longer happen.”
The hallway is used by students to go from class to class. Doors on either end of the hallway were locked for security’s sake when classes were in session. When students moved between classes, the hallway doors were open and the front door was kept locked. Anyone who arrived while students were going through the hallway would have to wait until they had passed and the hallway doors could be locked again.
“People have said for years that we need something that is a little more appealing,” Joliet West Principal Teresa Gibson said.
The police liaison office puts the officer assigned to Joliet West close to the front door rather than down the hall, where the old office is.
The new main entrance adds another layer of separation between outside visitors and students inside, while also providing indoor space where visitors can wait before being let into the school.
It clears the security station out of the hallway that students use to get to their classes, senior Joey Talarico said.
“It helps the students that now there’s a wide hallway we can get through,” Talarico said. “But it helps the parents because if it’s raining, they don’t have to wait outside.”
The conference room adds needed meeting space, Gibson said.
JOLIET WEST HIGH SCHOOL
• Opened in 1964
• Enrollment of about 3,300
• Building additions since 2003 have included space for 52 classrooms, improved science laboratories and a new cafeteria
• New field house opened in 2008
MAIN ENTRANCE FEATURES
• 3,523 square feet
• Metal detector and bag checking area
• Police liaison office
• Waiting area
• Two conference rooms