by Jim Riggs
February 16, 1980
School Out, Press Is In
The school normally serves the needs of about 500 students at this time of year. But with the arrival of the Winter Olympics, it is trying to serve the needs of more than 3,000 journalists from all around the world since the building has become press center for the games.
Instead of saying English, history or biology, the signs outside the rooms say Associated Press, TASS, Mutual Radio, Nordic News, French Press Agency, European Press Photo Union, etc. And that is a big etc. since a walk down the halls of the four floors is like a journey through a “Who’s Who” of journalism.
If you happen to reach the end of entrance floor you find where they have tucked away the school personnel. Through a maze of temporary newsrooms, darkrooms, camera manufacturers’ hospitality rooms, snack bars and even a regular drinking bar, you find two doors hidden in a corner marked “School Personnel Only.”
The school office on the second floor is also still intact and that is where I found Wilma Foley, secretary to the superintendent. I asked her what it is like to be like a stranger in her own school building and she replied, “You feel a little funny.” But she was quick to add, “It’s their (the press) building since it has been designated the press center.”
She explained that school has been out since Jan. 25 and will not resume until March 3. On Jan. 25, the students were let out at noon and the press was not supposed to take over the building until 3 p.m. But Mrs. Foley recalls the journalists came in earlier seeking every available space. One group even moved into a small area under the auditorium stage.
Before the exodus, the students had to clean out their lockers and the teachers had to pack up and label all their supplies. Then all of that along with the chairs, desks and other equipment was trucked away for storage. It is scheduled to return after the Winter Olympics and the school has been assured everything will be returned to its proper place. But many of the school personnel will believe that when they see it.
The five-week break from January to March sounds like a sizable gap that would keep the students in school longer this summer but the time off has almost been completely accounted for. School was out for only two days at Christmas and two days at New Year’s. At Easter the students will be off only for one day, Good Friday, and that is when Mrs. Foley foresees trouble.
“It will be bad at Easter,” she predicts. “The townspeople usually go out of town and they probably still will. Absence should be high.
With the time off accounted for, school will be out right on time with graduation set for June 27.
The time off could also have fouled up the sports schedules but that has been taken care of, too. In the early boys basketball, girls basketball and hockey schedules, most of games for Lake Placid were scheduled at home. While the Olympics are on they will play on the road if there are any other schools to play since most of the others in the area are closed during the Games.
The teachers are being paid during the break and many are picking up extra money working for the Olympic committees. As usual, work still goes on in the school offices as Mrs. Foley and her co-workers are busy catching up on the work that there is never time for. “Office personnel is always working anyway,” she explains.
Despite the hubbub of activity in the halls, things seem rather normal in the school office and actually quieter since the teachers and students are not constantly walking in and out. The only difference is the presence of a closed circuit color television like the ones in all the press rooms for telecasts of the events.
In March things should begin returning to normal but one of Mrs. Foley’s co-workers would like to see some of the Olympic additions remain in the building. “I want everything the same after the Olympics,” she jokingly told a colleague. “I want the television here all the time and a wine bar across the hall.”
However, with those added attractions I doubt much work would get done when school reopens. But I have a feeling not much work will get done anyway the first few weeks as everyone will be trying to get back to normal. If things end up being as hectic as I think they will, it might not be a bad idea to keep that wine bar around.