ST. JOHN | A celebratory mood filled the former track and field area behind Lake Central High School on Wednesday as more than 100 people gathered in sunshine and temperatures in the low 90s for the new high school groundbreaking.
“Lake Central is people working together to help our young people prepare for the future,” said Kathy Szewciw, a Lake Central teacher and key figure in organizing the $160 million referendum to raise property taxes that voters approved in November.
That referendum provides funds for the new Protsman Elementary School in Dyer, the demolition of the 50-year-old Protsman and the high school expansion.
“This is a community that cares about our students,” Szewciw said. “Now we will have a school worthy of our wonderful students who enter our doors.”
Kay Trapp, Lake Central financial director from 1954 until her retirement in 1984, participated in the groundbreaking. The Lake Central School Corp. administration building is named for the 87-year-old, who continues to volunteer in the school corporation.
“I hope people have the patience for this project. It will take a lot of work, a lot of time,” Trapp said. “It’s going to help students, teachers and the community.”
Schmidt & Associates Architects of Indianapolis designed the project, which will feature 1 million square feet based on staff and administration input.
Turner Construction of Chicago and Indianapolis and Gary-based Powers & Sons Construction are jointly managing the Lake Central and Protsman projects.
Tom Neff, principal partner of Schmidt & Associates, said Lake Central’s design is the largest his company has done, and the quickest. The firm was hired immediately following approval of the referendum.
“This has been a very complicated process,” said Bill Ledyard, director of facilities for Lake Central schools. “Schmidt & Associates designed this project backwards and put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle.”
St. John Town Manager Steve Kil said the school corporation is just a few weeks from obtaining the building permit.
Howard Marshall, Lake Central School Board president, said students have achieved in academics, the arts and athletics despite the aging structure and overcrowding.
“Today marks the start of a change,” Marshall said. “Lake Central will soon join the rarified atmosphere as one of the superior high schools in Indiana.”
Parents and children were among those attending the groundbreaking.
Janelle Rokita will be a member of the class of 2030. The 4-month-old sat in a covered stroller while her mother, Amy Rokita, of Schererville, a special education teacher at Lake Central High School, sat in the bleachers.
“This is neat for me. I attended kindergarten at Protsman and graduated from Lake Central,” Rokita said. “It’s going to be wonderful for the students and teachers and the whole community. Everybody is finally realizing the magnitude of this project.”