Lakeland progress ahead of schedule
“The school is being built around the kids and also for the teachers so they can finally have a facility to do their job adequately,” said Shane Crawford, Walworth County public works director.
All facets of the building were designed with the students and teachers in mind, which should make it the best place for many of Walworth County’s children with disabilities to learn, said Tracy Moate, county director of special education.
-- The new school has a “racetrack design.” The student hallway tracks around a courtyard, and almost all student classrooms will have windows.
-- The new school is approximately 109,900 square feet total with 76,913 square feet as classroom space. The existing school is 61,450 square feet with 45,747 square feet of classroom space.
-- Average classroom size will increase from 619 square feet to 740 square feet.
-- Teachers will have shared private offices with telephone and Internet access, and each classroom will have a storage closet.
-- Each classroom also has a quiet room where students can work independently with their teacher or aide.
-- The facility will have the capacity to incorporate the latest technology, an ability with which the old building couldn’t keep up because of its design. Smart Board technology will promote interactive teaching by allowing teachers to project what’s on a computer screen, overhead, DVD player and more.
“It’s something that gives us the ability to keep these kids on a level playing field with what we’re seeing in the rest of the public schools today,” Moate said.
-- A “cafeterium” will serve as both a cafeteria and gymnasium. The gym will be big enough to hold spectators for sporting events. It also will have a stage on the east end. The old gym was only slightly bigger than the basketball court with no seating space.
-- Two pools will help serve students’ therapeutic needs. A smaller, shallower pool will be set to 92 degrees and have therapy jets, like a hot tub. A larger pool will have three swimming lanes and also areas for water exercises. Both have “zero depth” entrance ramps so students in wheelchairs can be brought into the pools.
-- Students will be “separated” more by age than currently. The elementary- and pre-school-aged children will be in the north hallway; the middle school-aged children will be in the west hallway, and the high school-aged students will be in the south hallway. Administrative offices, the gym, pool and additional classrooms (art, music, industrial arts, etc.) will be on the eastern end of the building.
“We made more direct routes that, I think, get students from A to B more efficiently and in a shorter timeframe,” Moate said. “Kids are in a classroom with instruction faster, rather than trying to get around the building.”
-- The school is entirely on one level. Students no longer will have to climb stairs or use elevators. Evacuating students in an emergency, particularly students in wheelchairs, will be easier and quicker.
-- Many of the classrooms share a bathroom, making it easier and quicker for teachers to assist students who need help with their toiletry and hygiene needs.
-- Other benefits: the nurse’s office is bigger; doorframes and hallways are wider, and each student will have his or her own locker or cubby for coats and supplies. The courtyard will allow for outside learning.
-- “These kids are going to go to a school that is designed for their disability, and I am proud of that,” Moate said. “Walworth County can be proud of that. I think if you go to other places, schools aren’t always designed with children with disabilities in mind.
“This building has been built with the kids in mind and what obstacles they may face on a daily basis.”
Construction is about 45 days ahead of schedule. The school should be done by the start of next school year.
Engineers hope to have the building complete and turned over to the county by July. Construction started in April 2007.
Workers found remnants of old county buildings during excavation of the site. Solidifying the footings on poor soil was probably the most difficult challenge, said project superintendent Andy Greco of J.P. Cullen & Sons, the general contractor.
The project budget was $18.7 million. The county anticipates the school to be completed for $17.7 million.
Donations also have lowered county costs by several hundred thousand dollars.