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Community, students celebrate Lakewood's new high school


March 14, 2018 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Community members and local students cut the ribbon to the new Lakewood High School at a grand opening ceremony on March 10.

Lakewood School District officials celebrated the community's new high school with a grand opening and ribbon cutting on March 10.

Although it was something of an unconventional ribbon cutting.

"Traditionally at ribbon cuttings we have the board president, the high school principal all come out and you watch us cut the ribbon," said Michael Mack, superintendent for the school district.

However, Mack's assistant Robin Parker had a different idea.

"Robin's idea was that this was the community's school so it should be a community ribbon cutting," said Mack.

More than a hundred community members gathered around the ribbon at the school's new gym and helped cut it with commemorative (normal-sized) scissors they were given and encouraged to take home.

The new Lakewood High School officially opened this fall as students returned to school in September, although some areas like the parking and theater space were still finishing up.

The new campus provides all new classrooms and facilities for students.

"As a member of this community, as well as someone who is raising a family here, there are many details of this construction that I am excited for," said Lakewood School Board President Jahna Smith.

"We are really so fortunate. This is a beautiful, beautiful school," Smith said.

Every class now has a window to the outside and provides direct sunlight.

"I don't think we've ever worked with a school that you could not schedule classes because students would be in rooms with no windows [referring to the old Lakewood High School]," said Michael McGavock, principal at McGranahan Architects, who built the school.

Even the school's gym has solar tubes which reflect direct sunlight into it.

Students said they are excited about their start in the new high school.

"I have made it my personal challenge to make a good community foundation at this school as the first ASB council at this new school," said Taylor Stich, the current Lakewood High School ASB President.

For the district it has been a long road to a new high school.

It began in 2010. "That's when the recommendation came out that the high school really needed to be updated and remodeled, and nothing had been updated in the old school since it had been built," said Larry Bean, former school board president for the district.

"Times have changed. The education process has changed," he said, which necessitated a new school.

In 2014 the district put a $66.8 million bond before the voters which initially failed by less than 10 votes.

"We all sat around in a room and said 'now what.' Traditionally, schools that fail a bond scale it down for the next one," said Mack.

However, instead the district decided to run the same bond for a second time, and this time it passed by an equally slim margin.

"We were the only school district in the state of Washington to pass a bond," that election, said Mack.

At that time the plan was to modernize the old Lakewood High School, said Mack.

"We go through this whole four-hour long process of where to remodel the old building, how it's going to look," he said. At the end of the meeting, one of the participants suggested a rebuild instead.

"I said 'hell no, because I don't want to through this whole process again,'" Mack joked.

Because the cost would not really be more and it would likely be a better long-term investment for the money, the district decided to go with a rebuild, although not without thought about keeping their initial promise to the voters of a remodel.

Christopher Andersson

Lakewood School District Superintendent Michael Mack speaks at the grand opening ceremony of the new Lakewood High School on March 10.

"We went out to the voters for modernization, not a new building. New buildings are harder to pass because modernizations are easier to sell [to voters]," said Mack.

With a new goal to build a new campus in place planning began again, eventually leading to the new Lakewood High School this September.

Officials and those who built the school hoped that it could serve as one of the community's main centers.

"Lakewood is not a city ... it's a community, but without a physical space to say 'this is ours' except for that 30-year-old high school," said McGavock.

"It was pretty evident that we needed to create a place of community," he said.

Mack thanked the voters and all those who helped the school come to fruition.

"There were so many people who were involved in this, and without any one of them we would not be here," he said.


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