Stepping into Norman Hall is like stepping back in time.
Narrow hallways lined with brown lockers are a tribute to the building’s origins as a K-12 school. Its red brick exterior dates back to the 1930s.
But the historic building’s character and charm are lost in its problems.
Holes in rotting windows are bandaged with black duct tape to keep out bugs and water. Students sit in classrooms affected by mold, mildew, asbestos, flooding, loose bricks, loose roof tiles and lead paint.
But now, students are speaking out for Norman to get the state funding they say it needs.
Without renovation, the building is a safety hazard and could become condemned.
One day in class, Gayle Evans had an unexpected visitor.
While she was teaching, the UF science teacher saw a rodent run across the classroom.
"Fortunately, I was the only one who saw," she said.
However, the rodents leave their mark. They nibble on equipment in the building’s science lab, she said.
Caitlin Gallingane, a clinical assistant professor, wrote in an email the crayons left on her bookshelf in the 2400 wing are partially eaten.
The building isn’t sealed off, which exposes it to animals and Florida’s unpredictable weather.
But it’s looked the same since 1932, back when it was home to the students of P. K. Yonge Laboratory School. It was a state-of-the-art building where teachers learned to teach, said Glenn Good, the dean of the College of Education.
It was built facing 13th Street. About 60 years ago, the College of Education moved in from Peabody Hall. In 1979, UF built an addition, New Norman, which faces 12th Street.
The college is now home to about 2,800 students, a number that is expected to grow by 20 percent in the next five years, Good said.
But in its current state, it’s not safe for students.
"I don’t want to alarm students and employees," Good said, "but we also have had to put caution tape routinely because bricks will fall off the side of the building from three stories up, and the roofing tiles fall off and it’s potentially lethal."
Most of the issues come through the windows, which are in their original form and have not been replaced in 82 years, Good said. Age has taken its toll and exposed the building to rain and humidity through multiple holes.
Good said faculty and staff, who work in the building eight to 10 hours a day, are mostly concerned about mold and mildew.
"There’s some spaces that we may have to condemn and close off because we can’t manage the mold successfully because (of) the moisture from the windows," Good said.
Faculty and staff have removed papers and books in some of the rooms and offices to keep the mold and mildew from getting worse, he said.
Evans said one professor had a bloom of black mold coming out of her air vent. She was displaced while the mold was removed and painted over, but now she avoids spending too much time there.
Good said the building could become uninhabitable.
"We don’t want to lose Norman Hall, but that’s kind of the option," he said. "Either we renovate it or we lose it."
Last year, the computer server room flooded twice, Good said.
It led to the loss of about $100,000 in hardware, said Tom Dana, an associate dean for the College of Education.
The flooding occurred Sept. 2014 when the water pipe burst after 5 p.m. No one was in the building. When the servers went down, the technical staff went to see what happened. By then, much of the equipment was damaged.
As a precaution, computers have been moved to places less likely to flood, Dana said. The computers are about five to seven years old and cost about $1,000 to $1,500 each.
When the water pipe burst in Norman Hall, the college was left without running water for several weeks, Good said.
The break required the water to be shut off for the entire building, said Gregg Clarke, the director of operations for the physical plant.
New Norman was built on top of the water supply line to Old Norman, which makes the water line inaccessible to workers, he said. A new water line had to be built, which cost $45,800 and took several weeks, UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes wrote in an email.
No one could use the drinking fountains or the bathrooms. Faculty and staff would run across the street to the Campus USA Credit Union on Fifth Avenue to use the restrooms, said Pam Johnson, the manager at the time.
Most of Norman’s maintenance work orders attempt to prevent future breakages or leaks, Clarke said.
In the last fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, there were 245 preventative maintenance work orders for Old Norman and 92 for New Norman, he said. UF’s Physical Plant spent 2,318 hours at Norman the last fiscal year, not including custodial services.
The cost of maintenance for Old Norman was $185,700, while New Norman was $126,600 and Little Hall was $122,700, Sikes said.
UF is in the planning stages of renovating room 10D to remove a high level of lead paint from the walls, Sikes said. The cost and completion date haven’t been determined.
Re-roofing is also a necessary project, she said. It will cost an estimated $650,000, and a steampipe upgrade will cost an estimated $20,000.
Money from the state would take care of the most deadly threats, Good said.
Lack of Funding
UF’s Student Government has recognized that the building’s conditions require lobbying for $8 million, said Matthew Hoeck, SG’s external affairs director.
A total of $24.4 million is needed to complete Norman’s necessary renovations, and the additional $16.4 million will be lobbied in future sessions.
The initiative to renovate Norman began last year, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed its funding.
Scott approved UF’s first two items: money to renovate the Engineering Building and money to fix the boiler system, Hoeck said. Scott vetoed Norman’s funding because there was "no identifiable statewide impact," according to a prepared letter.
Now, SG is collecting support through a change.org petition. As of press time, more than 750 people have signed and students have left comments advocating for the renovation.
SG has tentatively planned a Nov. 17 lobbying trip to Tallahassee for students to voice their opinions in the state capitol, said UF Sen. Maddie McClinton (Independent, Education).
"We’re gonna keep reminding (the legislature) of that until it happens," she said.
Elizabeth Bondy, a professor for the UF School of Teaching and Learning, has been teaching in Norman since 1989.
She sees a future for Norman. She sees the community coming together in Norman for family programs.
It just isn’t possible in its current condition.
"It’s a wonderful facility, but it’s very limiting," she said.
She said she imagines Norman with large, spacious rooms that can be divided into smaller sections with screens. It also needs to be more accessible for families with disabled children.
Gallingane, whose crayons are eaten by rodents, said the building’s one elevator breaks down too often to be reliable.
"As far as the elevator, it goes out of service more often than is acceptable," Gallingane said. "The elevator is the only handicapped-accessible way out of the Norman Addition."
Todd McCardle, a second-year UF curriculum and instruction doctoral student, said he came to UF for the faculty, not the building. But the state of the building makes him question UF’s ability to be competitive for the best and the brightest of faculty and students.
The 37-year-old said he worries Norman Hall’s condition could turn away potential graduate and doctoral students.
"I feel insulted being in there," he said.
When Olivia Johnston, a 19-year-old art education freshman, came to UF, she said she imagined herself learning art education in new, modern classrooms.
When she saw Norman the first day of the Fall semester, she said she was shocked to find few outlets, broken microphones and chalkboards. Coming from Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, she was used to using a lot of technology.
Like Norman, Lincoln Park’s middle school building did not age gracefully. But it was torn down while she was a high school student, she said.
"For me, it’s kind of like going through the same experience all over again," she said.
Upgrades would be ideal, but for now, the college’s faculty is concerned with safety.
"At some point, you either have to fix it or close it," Good said. "I don’t want to see someone get hurt before they make that decision."