Evanston Township High School revamps old signage

Elena Sucharetza, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Township High School is moving forward with an initiative to implement new signage throughout the school to make the building easier to navigate and update its compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility codes, school officials said.

Construction and installation of the signs should begin over the next couple months and continue into the summer, ETHS District 202 board president Pat Savage-Williams said. She said the signage will incorporate both text, color coding and numeric directionals to make the high school, one of the largest in the state, more easily accessible.

“We’ve had people tell us that they get turned around and lost in our hallways,” Savage-Williams said. “Our old, color coded signage was a part of that.”

ETHS chief financial officer Bill Stafford said the project will cost somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000, allocated from a capital improvements budget. With the Illinois’ budget still in a stalemate, ETHS could stand to lose millions in funding if certain proposals for funding reapportionment come to fruition.

This budget, however, is set aside strictly to be used for construction or other facility improvements, so funds used for signage would not interfere with other spending associated with school curriculum, ETHS spokeswoman Evangeline Semark said.

“This money doesn’t come out of the educational fund at all,” she said. “We can’t spend that money on anything else so it is important that the community recognizes that we are not taking away from the classroom.”

The design process involves a coordination between Chicago-based design firm Cardosi Kiper Design Group and the Evanston-based signage installation company Allegra, which Stafford said will be primarily in charge of manufacturing the markers and placing them throughout the school.

Stafford said the signage aligns with other goals of creating a more welcoming community for school visitors, pointing to the school’s resource center that was built more than a year ago.

Some of the improvements will include organized, comprehensive directories and unified, color-coded signage as opposed to the disorganized signage that existed before, Stafford said. Room numbers will also have corresponding Braille labels and the proper ADA elevation, he said. Historical names of the school’s cafeterias will be changed to north, south, east and west to indicate in which wings they are located.

Kim Cardosi, president of Cardosi Kiper, said the firm’s designs for the signage were “custom created” to properly address the inconsistency problems ETHS had with its old signage.

“The problem is we’ve had signage put in place sporadically over the last 50 years,” Stafford said. “All of it is different, none of it is the same, none of it is consistent. There is five different types of signage spread over five different decades at minimum.”

Although any signage with words will primarily be in English, wall directories at primary entrances of the school will be offered in both Spanish and English, school officials said. Stafford said the school will offer maps in both languages.

Savage-Williams said most of the signage uses colors and images in order to make the signage accessible to all people regardless of language. She highlighted that since over 54 different languages are spoken by ETHS families, it was important for the school to find a universal format for the signage.

Although Savage-Williams said she is confident the signage will be well-executed, she said the board will monitor the progress of the program to make sure signage is clearly marked.   

“Considering the number of languages, we really do have to find a way to communicate other than words if we want to do a good job,” she said. “But I will continue to ask questions because I don’t want such a large part of our population to feel as if they aren’t attended to.”

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