For Lake High School, it has been a year of adjustments for students and administrators. The district raced against the clock to open a new high school facility on the Owens Community College Campus after the June 5 EF4 tornado destroyed the high school building.
Principal Lee Herman said, for the most part, the transition for staff and students has been fairly smooth.
“It is going pretty well,” Herman said. “Kids are resilient. The first few days of classes was kind of like freshman orientation for everyone. Everyone had to figure out where their classes were, etc. For the short amount of time we had to get the school up and running, it really is going well.”
In June, Owens offered the Lake Local Schools the college’s former Owens Center for Development and Training building, located on Tracy Rd., in Northwood, to house a temporary high school.
According to Herman, the district placed temporary walls inside the building to create enough classrooms to house the 450 students in grades 9-12. As a result, hallways became narrower and an “odd traffic pattern” took some getting used to.
“When classes are changing the hallways are crowded which means students take a little longer to get to their classes,” Herman explained. “The restroom for the building is located in one corner of the building. The restroom is large enough to accommodate the students but it also adds to the time it takes for students to get to their next class. Really, the biggest hurdle was getting the place ready in time for school so the little issues that come up are really no big deal.”
Logistics concerning transportation and food service have had to be worked out. Herman said the high school was unable to provide hot food to students until the required licensing was in place. Students at the high school were able to get hot food as of last Friday.
“Prior to this, the food for the schools was prepared in the high school cafeteria,” Herman said. “Now the food is prepared at St. Jerome Catholic Parish and has to be transported to all of the schools. We finally received our licensing to serve hot food at the high school. The students were excited about that.”
As for transportation, Herman said both middle school and high school students are spending more time on busses.
“The kids are on the bus longer, especially middle school students,” Herman said. “The middle school students ride with the high school students. The first drop off is at the high school then at the middle school. We have transfer busses at the high school for the afternoon. Some students may have to transfer to another bus at the middle school in order to get home.”
School staff have also made adjustments. Herman now travels between both the high school and middle school daily. Teachers, guidance counselors, and others who had been shared between the schools also travel.
“We have to get in our cars to travel now instead of walking,“ Herman said. “There are still some technology issues like the phone systems that have to be sorted out but all in all, things are going well. We have textbooks, the students have a place to sit, and we are slowly getting back into a normal way of life.”
Jeff Carpenter, treasurer, said the district does not have an estimate for the building of the new school. The district reached a settlement with its insurer, Traveler’s Insurance, for $19.1 million.
“We had the first meeting with the architect today so we won’t know for a while what it will cost,” Carpenter said. “The next step it to hire a builder. Once we get drawings then we can get an estimate.”
Carpenter said he does not know exactly what the eventual cost will be for temporary high school.
“It is too early to say what the eventual costs will be,” Carpenter said. “There is rent, the interior changes we had to make to the building, paint, carpet, etc. The altered bus routes come at additional costs and some employees work hours changed also.”
The district pays Owens $13,750 a month in rent, which is equal to $3 a square foot, Carpenter said adding that other facilities might have charged $8 to $12 per square foot.
“It really is a bargain,” Carpenter said. “Owens did a lot of work also. The redid the landscaping, re-sealed and re-striped the parking lot. They have been wonderful. We were lucky Owens had the facility. They were in the process of vacating the building and they accelerated that which gave us enough time to make the modifications we needed and move stuff in.”
Carpenter said the costs associated with the temporary high school are all covered under the district’s insurance policies.