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Lakewood considers completely new high school
LAKEWOOD — While the Lakewood School District has hired a new principal, new teachers and other new employees for the school year starting on Wednesday, Sept. 3, perhaps the biggest change under way is the progress toward a new Lakewood High School facility.
Voters approved the bond to improve the existing high school building back in May, but their money might get them a completely new school instead.
Lakewood Superintendent Michael Mack explained that state law requires school districts to hire "value engineers" to evaluate the architecture and design plans for building projects.
"It's good sense to have an independent firm take a second look at those plans," Mack said. "They typically take a tour of the existing facility, with the plans to remodel it in hand, and check out everything from the structure, the plumbing and the electrical systems to the roofing, siding and landscaping."
The purpose of such an evaluation is to look for potential cost savings, such as by substituting one type of building material with another, but the value engineers who toured LHS offered a surprising observation.
"They told us they thought it would be cheaper to build a brand-new building than to remodel the existing building, because the high school is so old and the remodeling that we'll have to do is already so extensive," Mack said. "At the very least, they saw it costing the same amount of money, which would still get us a building that isn't 35 years old. Plus, we could redesign it to fit our needs, rather than trying to retain some aspects of the old building."
Mack explained that the Lakewood School Board will consider this proposal, with a public hearing to discuss both options on Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 5-6 p.m., just prior to the LHS open house. If the board chooses to adopt the value engineer's alternative, it will vote to do so the following Wednesday, Sept. 17.
In addition to gaining square footage and being about to lay out the facility's floor plan to better suit the needs of students, staff and community members, Mack noted that a completely new building could be constructed without disrupting classes in the existing high school.
In the meantime, LHS will start the school year with a new principal, Michael Curl, formerly of the Burlington-Edison School District. He'll be joined by Calista Ham, who's coming from Lakewood Middle School to fill a full-time counseling position, while Kristi Lentz has been re-hired as the Spanish teacher.
Just as the district conducted "Cougar Days" two weeks before the start of school, to help acclimate students to their schools with staff on site, so too will LHS freshmen be given a three-hour head-start over returning students on the first day, with freshman orientation running from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Sept. 3.
Paige Shinkus and Sara Funston's volleyball practice sessions have given them a sneak peek at the current high school, while teammate and LHS senior Erin White will be helping guide freshmen through the school during the first day.
"I get nervous about the lockers and getting lost," Shinkus said. "It's a bigger campus, with better sports and more opportunities."
"I'm looking forward to having new teachers and more classes that I can sign up for," Funston said.
"Freshmen should take advantage of as many opportunities as they can," White said. "High school is not as restrictive as middle school."
Mack elaborated that every two LHS leadership students will be assigned to a group of 12-15 freshmen. Not only will they show off the sights of the school during freshman orientation, but they'll continue to mentor their freshmen throughout the year.
LHS has a projected enrollment of 750 students for the start of this year. The remaining 2,375 students are expected to attend the following schools:
- Cougar Creek Elementary — 378.
- English Crossing Elementary — 356.
- Lakewood Elementary — 348.
- Lakewood Middle School — 539.
Former LHS principal Dale Leach will step into Mack's old roles as director of Career and Technical Education and Social Services, as well as an assistant principal for Lakewood Middle School.
Of the district's 14 other new hires, four are teachers and one is an interim appointment made permanent. The district expects to hire an additional teacher shortly.