By Matt Wright
City officials, including the Council of Commissioners and the Lakeland School Board, were invited to visit the Lakeland Prep high school addition today. The construction tour was led by Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell, as well as construction executives working on the project from Chris Woods Construction and Renaissance Group, the school’s project architects. Also included in the tour was Dr Jim Mitchell, a longtime Lakeland School System consultant for the middle and high school building process.
With the school opening in less than 10 months, construction officials assured schools that they were on schedule and did not expect any issues to get the school ready for the first grade of 9th grade. from August 2022.
The high school project consists of 50 new education classrooms compared to the 34 classes in the existing college building. Dr Horrell said this includes 4 new science labs, bringing the total to 6 science labs on campus. He also wanted to show the group a special room for teaching health sciences. “Part of the room is designed to look like a hospital room, with hospital beds,” Dr Horrell said. Surveys conducted by the school show great interest in preparing for a career in the health sciences, so the school wanted to teach this class in a setting with hands-on learning.
The thinking and planning of Lakeland’s first high school was evident as the group walked through the facility. As an example, Dr Horrell pointed out that career fields change so rapidly that many rooms in the school are built in such a way that they can be changed to suit the careers of the future. Some STEM rooms have garage doors so larger items can be rolled in and out of school. Robotic equipment was one of the examples given. “We really provided for flexibility,” said Dr. Horrell.
Lakeland Town Manager Shane Horn asked if supply chain issues had been an issue for the construction. Chris Woods Construction executives said they had a problem with the roofing materials, but architects and contractors worked together to fix it. They also mentioned that they ordered a lot of material in advance and stored it there. They do not generally store materials on site but they did not want to take the risk of delaying the project.
One of the unique features of the new high school is a courtyard in the middle of the campus buildings. The backyard will have a concrete patio next to the new high school cafeteria that will allow high school students to dine outside if they wish. Dr Horrell said the 9th graders would take advantage of this space next year. It will also be a great place for small outdoor concerts of the Fine Arts Department.
Lakeland Prep’s fine arts department will have top-of-the-line facilities for training and performing. Dr Mitchell told the group that the 800-seat auditorium is very similar to the GPAC (the Germantown Performing Arts Center) and how rare that is for a high school. The educational space includes areas for the marching band, orchestra, choir and even a multimedia installation for television. Sound engineers and consultants were even hired to ensure that the Lakeland Prep auditorium was first class.
The sports facilities for the Lions were just as impressive as the educational and artistic areas of the school. The new high school gymnasium is a massive structure and will be able to accommodate around 2,000 people. It also includes weight rooms and locker rooms for future Lakeland athletes. On the west side of the gymnasium there will be 2 tiers of bleachers and the top section can be pushed back for more indoor training space. The football field will also have changing rooms and a large weight room. Most recently, lights were installed on the baseball and softball fields, while construction of these locker rooms and concession stands is also underway.
The phrase “special” and “unique” was mentioned quite often during the rainy and cool tour of the Lakeland Prep campus this afternoon. School Board President Kevin Floyd told Lakeland Currents, “It’s exciting to see the project come to fruition. Our students will live one of the best experiences in the academic, artistic and sports fields. Now is the perfect time to be a Lakeland Lion. Commissioner Jim Atkinson echoed this thought, saying: “I am very impressed with the high school building after visiting today. It’s great to finally be able to see the spaces and get a feel for the size and scale after only seeing the plans on paper for so long. The fine arts section is huge with so many different offerings and will be second to none, the gymnasium and associated sports facilities are more than impressive, and the specialty classrooms were huge and well thought out. The auditorium and lobby are amazing and will definitely be a highlight for school and community events. He added: “A huge thank you to the city and to the principals who saw the vision of the establishment years ago. This hard work paid off. “
Lakeland’s first high school will open in August 2022 when it welcomes the Grade 9 class. A new class will be added each year until the school has its first graduating class.