ST. JOHN | State-of-the-art facilities and a new entrance await students returning Tuesday to Lake Central High School for the second semester.
Construction of the school’s new three-story academic west wing and new pool in the east wing began in June 2012, about seven months after voters in Dyer, Schererville, St. John and unincorporated St. John Township approved a $160 million referendum.
The referendum, which raises property taxes, provides funds for expansion of the high school, construction of the new Protsman Elementary School in Dyer and demolition of the 51-year old Protsman building.
Attached to the Lake Central Freshman Center, the new academic wing features classrooms and laboratories that rival those at colleges and universities with the latest technology and equipment, said Bill Ledyard, director of facilities for Lake Central School Corp.
Classrooms feature Smart boards and projectors. Computers create new educational environments and opportunities for distance learning. Eight complete laboratories and four half labs provide the training ground for science exploration and experiments.
Conference rooms attached to some areas, including business classrooms, give students the opportunity to work on projects together, Ledyard said.
“This will create a real-world business experience for students,” he said.
Vocational education facilities occupy two stories in this new wing.
“Our School Board insisted that we offer vocational training to prepare our students for future employment,” Ledyard said during a tour of the new facilities.
For example, the auto shop has six bays that can accommodate vehicles of all sizes. This area also features a separate tool room, parts room and a classroom.
Students will use the latest technology in the print shop to produce all publications and forms needed by Lake Central schools. The machine shop will prepare students for apprenticeship programs, Ledyard said.
Art students will be able to exercise their creativity with media ranging from paints to pottery in the new art studios, which include extensive preparation areas, studios, digital equipment and a kiln.
The pool building houses a 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pool that holds 750,000 gallons of water and has 10 lanes for competitions. Locker rooms will be used for swim meets.
Students will now enter Lake Central High School through “the Wedge” at the west side of the building. Four large-screen monitors will provide information for students. Hallways connected to the spacious entrance will take students to their first classes.
Ledyard said the parking lot outside the new west entrance has room for 65 buses that will drop off and pick up students.
Schmidt & Associates Architects, of Indianapolis, designed the Lake Central High School project based on staff and administration input. When all phases are completed, there will be 875,000 square feet of space under roof, which includes about 275,000 square feet of the existing Freshman Center, Ledyard said.
Turner Construction, of Chicago and Indianapolis, and Gary-based Powers & Sons Construction are jointly managing the Lake Central project as Turner Powers Joint Venture.
During the ceremonial groundbreaking in August 2012, 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,” Ledyard said. “Schmidt & Associates designed this project backwards and put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle.”
When students return to class, 75 percent of the old building will be closed, leaving only the South Wing and the Freshman Center standing, Principal Robin Tobias said.
“The current auditorium will be accessible through February, leaving time for our final spring musical performance. On March 1, the auditorium and its entrance will officially close. Demolition of the North Wing will commence,” Tobias said.
Completion of the project is expected by the end of 2015, Ledyard said.
“We have a fantastic team,” he said.