Take Note

April 10, 2002 1 min read


For teachers at Highland Park High School in Texas, keeping students focused on learning has always been one of the challenges of the job. But when the school began major renovations two years ago, teachers suddenly found themselves struggling to think, let alone teach.

To combat the strain caused by the construction, the 1,750-student school developed a program that offered teachers convenient stress-busting services.

Enlisting the aid of local businesses, the school began offering teachers a pickup laundry service, car washes, oil changes, and on-site massage therapy.

Teachers pay for the services and don’t get any special discounts, so offering the services doesn’t cost the school district a dime, said Principal Robert Jolly.

But the convenience offers some relief from the distractions caused by the construction, he said.

“The idea was to make life simpler so teachers could focus on instruction,” Mr. Jolly said. Local businesses also benefit, he added, making the effort “a win-win situation.”

His school is located in the upscale, independent Highland Park school district, which is entirely surrounded by Dallas.

For months, teachers have been educating students as construction crews tear down walls, split floors with jackhammers, and regularly force classes to move from one room to another. The work involves modernizing the 1930s-era school and adding more than 25 additional classrooms and a student parking garage.

“It has caused major stress,” said Mr. Jolly.

Many teachers now drop off their car keys or laundry at the school office; their cars and laundry are then picked up from the school and later returned there by local businesses. Teachers can also receive massage therapy on their lunch breaks or during free periods from one of two local masseuses who come to the school every Friday.

“The less that [teachers] have to worry about outside the building, the more [they] can focus on inside the building,” Mr. Jolly said.

—Marianne Hurst

A version of this article appeared in the April 10, 2002 edition of Education Week