Although a few items need to be finished from the construction “punch list,” Lake Forest Middle School is in full use, welcoming students when the school year began in August. The Bradley County Commission and other county officials toured Lake Forest on Thursday morning, visiting arts and academic classrooms, as well as common spaces and getting an overview of the project.
Although a few items need to be finished from the construction “punch list,” Lake Forest Middle School is in full use, welcoming students when the school year began in August.
The Bradley County Commission and other county officials toured Lake Forest on Thursday morning, visiting arts and academic classrooms, as well as common spaces and getting an overview of the project.
Principal Ritchie Stevenson welcomed the commissioners and other elected officials to the school, noting he is glad to have the opportunity to lead the tour.
While the building opened in time for the current school year “there’s still a lot of things happening,” he said, mentioning the walkway canopies still under construction, and a few other projects. Stevenson added the tour is a way “to say thank you, thank you, thank you” to county leaders for supporting funding for the construction project.
“We’re so thankful to have this facility,” he added.
Stevenson said it was a great experience working with Tri-Con Inc., the contractor for the new Lake Forest Middle School.
“All in all it’s been a really good experience, and we’re thankful,” he said.
Stevenson said the only time students have to go outside during the school day is to go to the cafeteria; that is a change from the old school building that was in separate pods with covered sidewalks between the buildings. The old school had more than 200 exterior doors, and that number has been reduced significantly in the new building. In addition, the school is equipped with specialized locks to increase safety, he said.
He said another problem with the old school was that when drivers pulled into the parking lot they “didn’t know where to go.” However, with the new construction, the front entrance to the school is prominent.
Stevenson said there are approximately 1,100 students at Lake Forest. “We can easily accommodate 1,400 students,” he added.
In addition, the new school has three educational wings with 18 classrooms on each hallway, a renovated auditorium, computer labs, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classrooms, among other spaces.
Also, 34 security cameras have been installed and a few more will be installed as they arrive on site.
“They’re real-time cameras where they can be connected to the Sheriff’s Office (and) emergency services,” said Dr. Linda Cash, director of Bradley County Schools.
Stevenson said LED lights and classroom heat pumps have improved energy efficiency, as evidenced by utility bills.
Johnny Mull, energy manager for Bradley County Schools, said in years past the August utility bill for the first month of school has been about $25,000, but it was about $16,000 this year.
“I can’t wait until we get a year’s worth of data,” said Mull, who also serves as chairman of the Bradley County Commission.
When asked about energy savings at Lake Forest compared to Park View Elementary School, Mull said there is not enough data available for comparison.
“It’s not going to be as good as Park View, but it’s going to be relatively close,” he said.
Commissioner Dennis Epperson asked why the decision was made to place a flat roof on the school. Stevenson said it was because of budget concerns, but noted “it does have a slight pitch to it.”
Epperson also asked about the life expectancy of the roof. Cason Conn, senior project manager for Tri-Con Inc., said the roof is EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer), a durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane with a 20-year warranty.
“It’s come a long way in about the last 15 years,” Conn said of EPDM, adding it is also a less expensive roofing option.
Cash added that drainage was a concern with the installation of a flat roof, but it was addressed.
Commissioner Bill Winters asked what the students are most happy about in the new school. Stevenson said the students really like the school’s environment, while parents appreciate the safety aspects.
Stevenson said the school represents an investment of approximately $21 million, with $14.5 million from county government and about $6 million from the school system.
“We tried to be very conservative (in spending), but it’s very nice,” he said.
Conn said the cost is about $130 per square foot, noting “this is the best cost-per-square-foot I’ve built in eight to 12 years.”
“It’s about the best cost-effective building I’ve built,” he said.
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