Last Wednesday approximately 90 students, parents, staff, community members and administrators came together at Lakewood High School in café-style conversations to discuss what defines Lakewood, our district’s challenges and our priorities for the future.
A few key themes emerged. The value that people place on the small, tight-knit feel of Lakewood wove throughout the groups. Friendliness and familiarity are threads that pull people together. Many people either remain in Lakewood or return after pursuing college or careers in other places. Finally, schools provide the social, emotional and cultural fabric that brings people together, shaping our future through the opportunities provided to students. Challenges, opportunities and priorities sprang out of what defines Lakewood. Rapid population growth, development, social, economic and racial/ethnic diversity present the biggest challenges and opportunities. But these changes were not discussed as negative trends. They were seen as positive trends that the community and schools have a responsibility to embrace and support. Participants shared that with a small community those who are already here—“Lakewood Lifers,” for example—have an opportunity to welcome and include those who bring fresh ideas and ways of seeing the world. Our schools are positioned to establish a wider range of programs and academic offerings that meet more student interests. Kids would be less likely to register for out-of-district programs such as Sno-Isle Skills Center, Running Start or other high schools.
The actions that we take moving forward can and should maintain our shared sense of history and belonging while capturing what is new. Expanding curricular and extra-curricular opportunities at secondary schools was a shared interest. Other ideas included expanding partnerships with community groups and public agencies. We could increase counseling services in schools. Our schools and community could partner with local, county and state agencies to provide safer access to schools with more sidewalks and crosswalks. People want the school district to continue to enhance communications and engage the community more regularly. Multiple groups, including the Lakewood School Board and administrative team, will review all input for next steps. These ideas, along with feedback gathered through other forums, will form the foundation of budget and strategic planning this year.
Thank you to all who attended and for those didn’t stay tuned for further opportunities to connect in the future. Realizing what we want to build in Lakewood is a long-term commitment.
Scott Peacock is superintendent of the Lakewood School District, which has a monthly column in this newspaper.