What do you see at school every day? Students and teachers are showing the world what their school really looks like with the Through Your Lens photo community.
Through Your Lens is a collection of photos and stories showing the reality of our nation’s school buildings. It’s an effort to raise awareness about safety and health conditions that support—or hinder—learning. It began as a photo competition and has since
Student photographer Briauna Wills shared her story at a past exhibit opening event:
"I chose to join the 'Through Your Lens Exhibit' because I love my school and teachers but I hate the building we are in. I feel imprisoned at my school with the cages on the windows and doors, bad lighting and broken windows. I am so embarrassed by my school building that I tell people I go to Digital Harbor, a Baltimore City school with beautiful new facilities.
My school has so many horrible deficiencies like bad ventilation, uneven heating, and faulty electrical wiring. I have asthma and so do a lot of my friends. Because of the lack of air conditioning and poor ventilation we often miss a lot of class time, especially when the seasons change.
Most of the time, we don’t have enough computers for a full class of students, and we have to share because of the electrical problems. My freshman year, my whole class had to sit with their feet on their chairs in a certain class because the sockets on the floor were old and had wires shooting out from them and my teacher didn’t want us to get shocked.
I had a substitute teacher recently say, 'I’ve seen bad schools, but a school that when you shut the classroom door you get locked in because the knobs are broken and the doors are this old is crazy!' Everyone laughed, but I wished I wasn’t there.
I wish we had lockers big enough to fit my binders in and there weren’t wires hanging from the ceilings and that I didn’t have to stress about being in danger of cutting myself on the broken glass on the doors and windows. I want to go to a better-looking and working school, but I love being here, no matter how many problems we have, although many students have transferred because of it. I would like to see my school up and running like some of the new ones that have been remodeled.
If my school were in better shape, it would make me enjoy coming more. Life would be easier at school if I had facilities like Digital Harbor. I would have fewer worries and wouldn’t feel so down about my school. I understand that other schools have problems just as much as mine and I’m sure there are people at other schools with the same feelings so I want to be their voice and help them get the schools we all deserve."
School buildings play a critical role in the lives of children, teachers, and communities:
Many of our nation’s public school buildings are in poor condition. In 31 states, people have challenged the adequacy or equity of public education funding in low-income communities, and facility conditions were an important element of their lawsuits.
The American Society of Civil Engineers began including public schools in its Infrastructure Report Card in 1998. That year it gave public schools an "F" grade. In 2009, the Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation’s public schools a “D” grade. Our nation’s schools would need well over $200 billion to bring school buildings up to basic standards of repair.
States and localities have made significant investments in school facilities—more than $500 billion between 1995 and 2004 alone. But the need for maintenance and repairs is still extreme. This is especially true in low-income communities.