LORAIN — With enrollment dwindling and a state financial takeover likely next year, Lorain Schools leaders are hoping the $73 million new Lorain High School can spur a comeback even if it is four years away from opening.
“We truly believe that this is cutting edge. That there isn’t a high school in the area or the state anywhere that’s going to rival this design,” Chris Smith, the lead architect and a partner at TDA Architecture, told Board of Education members at their Thursday meeting. “We believe this facility gives every young adult in Lorain City Schools an equal opportunity to develop their talent and not only to compete with other students in the state of Ohio, but around the world.”
Plans for the approximately 315,000-square-foot building, slated to open in August 2016 at 2600 Ashland Ave., include a three-floor academic wing, an 800-seat auditorium, a career tech center and a gymnasium.
Lead designer Jeff Henderson said planners will avoid the circulation and parking problems the 51-year-old, 239,000-square-foot old Lorain High School experienced. He attributed the change to input from school staff.
“It’s a much bigger building, and yet I think it utilizes the site very efficiently in terms of what it takes up and what it allows to happen on that site,” Henderson said.
The old school, formerly Admiral King High School, is where the new school will be. It is scheduled to be demolished in December with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new building Oct. 24.
Smith said the building will be built with some recycled materials and include a highly energy-efficient cooling and heating system designed to keep electricity costs low and an irrigation system designed to reduce storm water run off. The building will be LEED-certified — LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — meaning that it meets high energy-efficiency and environmental standards. Smith said the building reflects the technological shift from traditional teaching to more interactive learning.
“If we don’t design a facility that young adults want to attend, a facility that spurs their desire to learn and inspires students to make the most of their opportunities, then we have failed,” Smith said. “This vision gave us the inspiration for the design.”
The school will be the last in a 14-building project — 10 elementary schools, three middle schools — approved by voters in 2001. School district leaders hope the buildings will help in recruitment and retention efforts. The district lost about 3,000 students in the last decade and made major staff and program cuts in March, cutting 7.3 million of a projected $12 million deficit.
“We’ve shared the difficult times and now we have a little bit to celebrate,” board President Tim Williams said.
Superintendent Tom Tucker said the $215 million project, which state taxpayers are paying 81 percent of, is expected to be completed on time and under budget.
“We’ve all done great teaching and we’ve all done great learning in these good old school buildings,” said Tucker, who attended and taught at Lorain Schools. “But Lorain and its children now deserve a new, great high school.”
In other business
Tucker said full-day preschool classes, which had been eliminated in June because of budget cuts, will be restored at no extra cost. The restoration is through a collaboration with the local Head Start program run by Lorain County Community Action Agency. About 80 children attend the classes. Full-day kindergarten, which was cut to save $737,000, has not been restored.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.