It is common for a school's youngest students to stare at their new building in awe on their first day. The older students and their teachers were doing the same at Lake Forest Middle School on …
It is common for a school's youngest students to stare at their new building in awe on their first day. The older students and their teachers were doing the same at Lake Forest Middle School on Tuesday.
The first day of school for the 2018-19 year was also their first day in Lake Forest's new two-story, 138,000-square-foot academic building.
"We are here in the new building, and we are so excited," said Lake Forest Principal Ritchie Stevenson. "It's almost hard to put it into words."
For many years, the Lake Forest campus consisted of multiple pod-style classroom buildings which often required students to go outside when they needed to change classes. Now, the students are all under one roof.
The new building sits near where the old classroom pods used to be. The school's existing gymnasium and recently-renovated auditorium were attached to the new building, while the cafeteria remains a short walk away.
Stevenson noted construction workers had to work fast to get the building finished this summer. Though work on the building had begun prior, workers had to wait until school let out this past May to demolish existing classroom buildings.
"By the time the kids get out and we demo the old school, put in the parking and all that, this thing will be a push till the every end," Cason Conn, project manager for Tri-Con Inc., said late last year.
Though it was indeed "a push till the very end," Stevenson said students were immediately able to enjoy the new building. Some last-minute work is still being done in and around the school, such as the installation of landscaping and awnings outside, but the building itself was ready.
The building includes "state-of-the-art" broadcasting, STEM, and fine arts areas, a spacious library and classrooms which have "the most up-to-date" classroom technology. The U-shaped structure is wrapped around a central courtyard which will eventually be used for school events.
Stevenson added that the new building is "much more conducive to learning," because it has better climate control and is more secure. Many of the classrooms are also more spacious and soundproofed than their previous counterparts.
"It feels good to know we have a pretty school like everyone else now," said eighth-grader Hannah Yarber. "It's kind of sad, too, to see the old buildings gone, but it's so cool to be able to experience both campuses."
Eighth-grader Jacob Hutchison pointed out this year's sixth-graders won't know what it was like to go to school in the old buildings, but the upperclassmen will be quick to tell them what they like about the new building.
He added the previous classroom buildings were "really old and not that great," and he is grateful he is getting to go to school in the new building before he moves on to high school.
Many of the students got their first look at the school on Monday, when the school hosted some 3,500 "unbelievably excited" students and family members for orientation events and building tours. Still, that didn't keep students from looking at their new building with wide eyes and big grins the next day.
"Everybody was — and continues to be — excited for the school and our students," Stevenson said. "It's going to be such a great thing for the kids in this part of town."
Plans are in the works for a community grand opening event, which will likely take place in November, after the remaining site work is complete.
Stevenson, who has been the school's principal for 19 years, said this new building is "a dream come true." He noted that features many schools have long had, like interior hallways, seem like "luxuries" to those who had to navigate the old Lake Forest campus.
The principal expressed his thanks to Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash, Bradley County Board of Education, Bradley County Commission and everyone else who helped this "dream" become reality.
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