One of the ball fields currently being replaced at Lakewood High School.

With students returning to school this week, the Lakewood School District plans to put the finishing touches on their recently constructed high school this year and then launch new education initiatives.

The high school’s athletic complex is being completed this fall and winter, with new baseball/softball fields and a new tennis court already in place.

“We’ll have a new boys tennis team now because we finally have tennis courts. If you remember our old tennis courts, they were pretty bad,” said Lakewood Superintendent Michael Mack.

The athletic improvements were always planned, but have come sooner than expected as the high school project came in under budget.

“We got more state match funding than we thought and the bid came in lower than we expected,” said Mack.

The board of directors chose the athletic complex to finish with a part of the leftover money, and then will focus on middle school improvements.

After that, Mack said they will be looking at their district office, which is having some failing utilities.

This summer teachers have started training to take a “deep dive” at their educational practices as well.

“It’s important for me, because for so long I was hired to get that high school built and get that done, and now we’re looking at the next steps,” said Mack.

“I tell people that we're shifting now from construction to instruction,” he said.

The district has partnered with the University of Washington on a three-year contract to help look what Lakewood teachers do that is effective and what could be improved.

“So the real focus this year is to partner with the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership to step back and take a deep dive into our instruction,” he said.

“We’re looking at literacy, that’s kind of the focus. The hope and expectation is that staff will learn new approaches to teaching literacy and how it is important,” he said.

They are combining that work with “trauma-informed” training that will help teachers understand what research indicates are the best practices in responding to students who are having problems.

“Some kids come with real significant concerns and areas of their lives that are tough on them,” said Mack. “Twenty years ago a kid would throw a fit and you’d send them out and blame the student — you still may have to go, but with a better understanding of how to help."

That doesn’t mean every teacher will be expected to be a councilor, “but we just want everyone to help the student to get through their problems so they can back to learning,” said Mack.

Finally, Mack said that they will be working at the middle school level to prepare a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab to begin those skills earlier for students.

He hopes that the district can prepare that lab next summer for the next school year.

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