When band and orchestra teacher Les Johnson first began working with students at Dixie Elementary a decade ago, he had little trouble managing the stairs that were his only route to the school’s second-floor classrooms.

But over the past few years, Johnson’s rheumatoid arthritis has made climbing the stairs too difficult. So he was given a first-floor classroom and students began coming to him.

Johnson’s experience is an example of why the Valley Station school needed an elevator. And it soon will have one, just off the school’s main lobby. It cost $274,000 and is expected to be ready to use by mid-September.

“We have faced challenges in the past accommodating those with mobility difficulties or those who have suffered injuries due to accidents,” Dixie principal Stephanie Allen said.

Dixie was one of seven multistory public schools in Louisville without an elevator, said Michael Mulheirn, executive director of facilities and transportation for the school district.

“When the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, there were 99 schools were in need of elevators,” he said.

Blue Lick, Lincoln, Roosevelt-Perry and Smyrna elementary schools are expected to receive elevators next summer. Crums Lane, Wheatley and Wilt will receive them in 2012.

At Dixie, the elevator installation is the latest improvement. Last year, the ceilings were lowered and lighting updated in each of the school’s 21 classrooms to improve visibility and brighten the school.

“One of our core beliefs here at Dixie is that each student deserves the opportunity to interact in a caring, safe, respectful, diverse and inclusive learning environment,” Allen said.

She said the elevator will allow the school to better meet the needs of all students, including those with special needs.

She added that it also will be an aid to local residents — many of whom are seniors — who volunteer at Dixie.

“Having the elevator available will making it easier for them to move around the building and participate in school-sponsored events,” she said.

Johnson said the elevator will be a welcome addition. “It will not only just benefit me, but anyone who is handicapped.”

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