published Monday, October 1st, 2012

$12.5 million in upgrades under way; gym coming

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe honors chemistry students use a Mimio Teach interactive whiteboard for a presentation during class Friday. From left are Melanie Asher, Michael Landers, Taylor Tolbert and Preston Sewell, back right.
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe honors chemistry students use a Mimio Teach interactive whiteboard for a presentation during class Friday. From left are Melanie Asher, Michael Landers, Taylor Tolbert and Preston Sewell, back right.
Photo by Tim Barber.

The Greek philosopher Democritus theorized some 2,500 years ago that everything is made of atoms, leading some to dub him "the father of modern science."

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School students used the latest technology last week to share Democritus' ancient idea.

"His theory was that matter would not be divided into smaller and smaller pieces forever," said 11th-grader Taylor Tolbert, as she moved images around on an interactive whiteboard at the front of the honors chemistry class taught by Ashley Wagner.

Interactive whiteboards — devices that act like giant computer touchscreens — are displacing blackboards in schools nationwide.

The boards' installation is one example of some $12.5 million worth of renovations under way since summer break began at the Catoosa County, Ga., high school. Funding comes from a 1 percent education special purpose local option sales tax that voters approved in 2011.

All seven of the high school's science labs have been completely renovated.

Other improvements include a new fire sprinkler system, new ceiling tile, brighter fluorescent lighting, repainted hallways, fiber-optic cabling, a surveillance system, a new parking lot on Battlefield Parkway, a football field concession stand and a digital scoreboard capable of showing video.

The centerpiece will be a 53,000-square-foot gymnasium next to the existing gym.

It will be similar to the gymnasium at Heritage High School, which the district opened in 2008, in that spectators will walk down to sit on the bleachers.

"It keeps the spectators off the court," said architect Ray Boaz, a partner in DH&W Architects, the Chattanooga firm that designed both schools.

The difference is that, at Lake-view-Fort Oglethorpe, spectators will have to climb stairs or take an elevator to reach the bleachers. The school is built on solid rock, so designers did not have the option of sinking the gym floor below ground level, as was done at Heritage High, Boaz said.

All of the work should be finished when school opens next year, Boaz said.

Once the project's finished, the current gym will be demoted to "auxiliary gym" status.

Principal Terri Vandiver said there's enough activity to fill two gyms.

"Oh my goodness, yes," said Vandiver, citing cheerleading and volleyball as two programs that overlap each other.

"Right now, we have to use the facility across the street at the Methodist church," she said, to accommodate all the students' after-school practices.

Vandiver is thrilled about the renovation of the high school that she graduated from in 1978.

"This is a big thing for Fort O," she said. "The spirit around here — it's amazing."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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