School Scope online extra: The hidden rooms of Saratoga High

January 16, 2011 — by Nandini Ruparel, Sabrina Cismas, Kelly Liu, Denise Lin and Arnav Dugar

The bell rings, and students pour out of the classrooms, heading for their next class. In the hallway, they pass by several rooms that are vaguely recognizable, but which they have no knowledge about.

Such rooms serve as a constant source of mystery. Students cannot help but wonder, What is in the teachers-only science hallway? What is that tiny room next to the math quad edged in the corner next to the staff bathroom? What is in the rooms behind the library’s front desk? Some Falcon reporters decided to do some stealthy detective work and find out for themselves.

Maintenance Building:

The maintenance building is located in the back of the school, parallel to the science wing, with the softball field on one side, and the back parking lot at the other.

The maintenance building is a series of mini garages that are connected in one long 3,360 sq. foot building. It is the school’s biggest storage room. Everything from Grad Night supplies to the golf carts are stored inside. There are three main supervisors for the maintenance building: Mike McQuade, the day supervisor; Robert Delfino, the weekend supervisor; and Richard Fernandes, the sports fields supervisor.

Almost everyone on campus is familiar with the golf carts that roam around the school, but where do the come from? The parking lot? The roof? (Yes, they go up there too.) All are safely stored in the maintenance building. Some items there include unused lockers, washing machines, a garbage compacter, and half a tree.

-Sabrina Cismas

Health Portable:

Now called the team room, the health portable is located next to the swimming pool and the girl’s locker room entrance at the back of the gym.

The room is currently used as a meeting place for sports teams, as well as a place for them to discuss tactics. Sports uniforms are also stored and distributed there.

As most upperclassmen remember, the team room was once the health portable where health classes were held. There are still indications of its previous use left, including old newspaper clippings of health-related stories. There are also many sub-offices in the building on both sides of the room that house miscellaneous sports-related equipment.

Even more intriguing is that before the journalism room (303) was built in 2000; all journalism classes and staffs were housed in the portable for four years in the early 2000s, after their old room was destroyed to build the library.

-Sabrina Cismas

Language Department Office:

The Language Department “Office,” is the front building of the 300 section. It’s a low building with a couple sliding windows on the side and a blue door.

In previous years, the language department was the front building of the 500 wing, but due to lack of space, the school switched the teachers to their current office this year.

The room is mysterious because there is rarely anyone there. The space is also shared by the custodial and electrical staffs, so the language teachers prefer to meet in Spanish teacher Arnaldo Rodriguex’s room to escape the smell of chemicals.

Nevertheless, the room is still a storage place for the department’s supplies, as well as for the junior class’s props from events such as Homecoming, since Rodriguex is the junior class adviser. A smaller storage room connected on the inside to the office houses some of the custodial and electrical supplies including a mountain of toilet paper.

-Sabrina Cismas

Science Hallway:

Science teachers forbid students to enter what lies beyond their class’s back doors: the science hallway. The science hallway is a vast tunnel of assorted equipment, lab materials and chemicals.

About the only time students are permitted is when they are on fire or have come in contact with chemicals, at which point they are allowed to enter the hallway and use the nearby pull-down showers displaced every other classroom. Teacher’s assistants, however, who go back and forth to help teachers prepare for labs. Still, the science hallway is, for the most part, unknown to many students.

The hallway has tall wooden cabinets on opposing sides of the walls, containing equipment, replacements of glassware and lab materials. Past a locked, black room, there is a dim circular area, similar to a kitchen pantry, that has shelves of chemicals used for labs. The long hallway has big tables centered littered with multiple papers, binders and books, and freshly set up labs used for the day.

Because the science hallway is so vast, sections of the hallway have a poster representing that area—more specifically, Guantanamo Bay, the Bay of Pigs, Monterey Bay, and Amazon River Bay-sin.

Beyond the practicality of easy accessible equipment for labs, teachers and custodians have experienced paranormal activity in the hallway when they are staying at school late. “I don’t [believe in ghosts], but when you’re here at 8:30 [p.m.], you kind of do,” said science teacher Kelly Nicholson, who has encountered paranormal activity multiple times in the science hallway.

Her first encounter with the ghost was in 2007, when her husband was in graduate school and they carpooled. She would stay at school late at night and every night starting at 8:30 p.m., Nicholson would hear three, loud and deliberate footsteps echoing chillingly from around Thomson’s classroom in the hallway. Every time she peeked out to see who caused the sound, no one was there.

“Now if I’m here late and my computer prints to the laser printer in the science office, I crack the door and [say], ‘Um, is this OK with you? I’m just going to the laser printer and get my papers and I’ll be right back in my room,’” Nicholson said.

The custodians and the maintenance department members have also seen shadows and sounds in the school’s back parking lot and gym. According to Nicholson, the ghost is widely assumed to be that of former teacher Ray Goñi.

Goñi absolutely loved Saratoga High as a football and track coach in his years and died of cancer. Witnesses believe the ghost of Goñi walks to the school’s gym, cutting through the back parking lot and science hallway because the science building was not built during his time.

-Kelly Liu

Boiler Room:

The boiler room is opposite of the Sports Medical Center building, right next to the school’s swimming pool. It is a tall building about 2,000 square feet with long narrow windows covered in cobwebs.

The windows are built high above the boiler room’s doors, meant to stream in sunlight into the musty and dark room and to not have passerbys’ look into the room. Everyone who walks by it seems to glaze over its mysterious and seemingly vacant presence. It is one of the original buildings of Saratoga High.

According to Brian Moran, the plant operations supervisor, the room houses two boilers that provides heat to the cafeteria, gym complex, faculty lounge and wood shop. In 1959, the boilers heated the entire campus. The maintenance department members used to visit the boiler room daily to turn the boilers on and off.

Now, the boiler room also is a storage room for risers used in the McAfee Performing Arts Center or the Little Theater for staging, electrical carts, the scissor lift, ladders, spare desks and wooden platforms that Redwood Middle School borrows from time to time.

“It’s a great space to have because it does provide us [maintenance department] some additional storage,” Moran said.

-Kelly Liu

Library back rooms:

Every day, students go into the library to do their homework, look at the computers, check out books or just hang out with friends. However, they are largely unaware of the hidden back rooms of the library, blocked by the library’s front desk.

The room furthest to the left contains a bounty of periodicals, where the library’s magazine archive is stored. It feels otherworldly just looking at the floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with magazines, a few of which date back to the 1940s. Most of these periodicals are now available for access on the library’s online databases. The library, has nonetheless still decided to keep all the periodicals as some of the issues on the database only date back twenty years and has not found another use for the space.

There is a cabinet in the same room that contains all the school’s yearbooks, beginning from the 1960 book to the 2010 book. Students can only look at the yearbooks with special permission, since they are “absolutely irreplacable.”

“This yearbook has Steven Spielberg in it,” said librarian Kevin Heyman, picking up the 1965 yearbook. “If we lose it, it’s gone forever. [The yearbooks] are available, but we guard them pretty closely.”

Beyond the periodical room is a room full of books and a large table and then an audio and visual storage room.

-Denise Lin

Room next to 005:

Have you ever wondered what’s really in the many rooms labeled “office” scattered around campus? There are many, yet most of them seem virtually untouched.

With the assistance of maintenance worker Barton Fitzgerald, we looked behind the door of a small office next to room 005, next to the library and research room building.

The opened doors revealed a white, squeaky clean, tiny room. A single rectangular table had been placed in the middle, and was accompanied by a cushioned chair. A couple shelves were filled with what seemed to be textbooks. The room, used as an extra English office, is pristine, undisturbed by the rowdy teenagers.

-Denise Lin

Double doors in front of English teacher Erick Rector’s room:

The double doors on the right revealed an untouched electrical room, which had been caked with layers upon layers of dust throughout the years. Although not the cleanest place, the room had a mysterious nature, similar to that of a newly discovered attic or secret passageway. The room controls the electrical aspect of the small building and also contains an air compressor, which can be used to fill tires on a van, or anything else that requires compressed air.

-Denise Lin

Room 902:

Located in the music quad, room 902 is also one of the lesser known rooms on campus. It has a set of back doors, a set of double doors in the English wing next to the back parking lot. However, these doors cannot be opened from the outside. The room is used to build and store sets for plays and musicals and can be accessed from a door in the music quad, next to the robotics room. The scene shop looks like an ideal workspace. Much of the wall is painted with intriguing figures, like a ninja and a horse.

Wooden tables sit around the room, in the middle, and against the walls on top of a tiled floor. A wooden table in the middle of the room is partially smoothed over with metal, which is part of a table saw; such equipment is used for woodwork.

-Denise Lin

Robotics Room:

The robotics room is located in the corner of the music quad. This room is the shop that the Mechanical Science and Engineering Team (M-SET) uses. This room contains power tools that the team uses to build the robot for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition (FIRST) as well as other mechanical contraptions.

“It is the central location for all things M-SET. We keep all of our supplies, tools, and technology in there,” said junior and M-SET member Adrian Bedard. “It often looks messy, however everything has a place.”

Very few enter the room during school hours, since most of the activity happens in the evenings after school or during the weekends. Also, most of the FIRST competition work happens during second semester.

-Arnav Dugar

McAfee Center:

Aside from the rooms backstage, there are several hidden places within the McAfee Center. Above the audience, there is a catwalk in which the lights are hung. Behind the audience, there are two rooms: the bottom one contains the controls for the lighting as well as microphones and other hardware; the top room contains the two spotlights. On the left side of the stage, there is another catwalk that gives access to the fly-in rigging. Very few people get the opportunity to see the rigging inside the theater. Adrian Stapleton, the manager of the McAfee, oversees all of these rooms.

-Arnav Dugar

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