Some teachers and students at Ironwood Ridge High School are miffed at a new directive from their principal: No more couches.
The comfy classroom corners will disappear after the end of the school year because a workers’ compensation inspection tagged them as a back injury risk to custodians. The custodians must move the behemoths to clean carpets during summer break.
Some teachers and students at the school, 2475 W. Naranja Drive, think the recommendation from the Arizona School Alliance for Workers’ Compensation is a case of bureaucracy gone mad.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said special education teacher Samantha Youmans, who thinks the couches enhance camaraderie and academics.
Principal Michael Bejarano, who issued the ban, sees both sides but says employee safety trumps comfort.
“If an employee gets hurt moving a couch, shame on us,” Bejarano said.
A representative of the Alliance, a private company formed by state school districts to insure against workers’ compensation claims, did not return two telephone calls seeking comment. The inspection report recommends household furniture not be allowed in classrooms.
“These large items add to the work of custodians and pose a potential back injury when moving them (in summer) for cleaning carpets,” the inspector wrote.
Teachers were asked only to remove couches, Youmans said.
Student Government Vice President Kirsten Linaker understands the liability, but she thinks the couches help student government and academics.
“It kind of creates a more relaxed atmosphere for our discussions,” Linaker said.
Couches also give students a comfortable place to complete reading assignments, she said.
English Department Chair Susan Williams has had couches for most of her eight years there.
“I think they’ve cleaned my carpets once since I’ve been here,” she said.
Her classes include book “cadres,” which are book discussions among students. Couches enhance the book cadres, said senior Victoria Maxwell, 18.
“It actually gives it that book-talk feel. With this, everything is just really relaxed,” she said.
Senior Rachel Held, 18, was relegated to a desk April 6 because she got to class too late to stake a claim. She was visibly disappointed and grudgingly took a seat.
“The couch spots are coveted,” she said.
So far, the policy only applies to Ironwood Ridge.
Todd Jaeger, the Amphitheater Public Schools legal counsel who handles risk management, is not aware of other schools in the district where personal furniture has been deemed a risk.
“We don’t have a districtwide policy,” he said.
Despite her exasperation, Williams isn’t protesting. She issued a memo telling her department of the pending ban.
“In the scheme of things – budget, teachers losing their jobs, class sizes going through the roof – this is small,” she said.
“I worry more about my friends having jobs than about having a couch.”
Teachers estimate about one-third of the 95 teachers have couches in their rooms.