ESPLOST project progresses at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School

ESPLOST project progresses at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School

July 26th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

Things will be the same, but different, when students and staff return this fall to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.

All of the science classrooms and labs will have undergone a complete renovation, the first since the school opened in the mid-1970's, according to Doug Suits, director of operations for Catoosa County Public Schools.

"Kids should be excited about science," he said. "The goal is to provide the necessary support for standards-based instruction."

Reaching that goal is part of about $12 million in renovations and additions at LFO that are part of a five-year plan for capital improvements included in the most recent ESPLOST referendum.

Existing classrooms have been gutted and reconfigured to allow more space for hands-on-learning. Secure storage rooms have been added. Upgrades have been made to all laboratory furnishings and equipment.

"It will be like a new building," Suits said.

Funding is being provided with revenue from ESPLOST IV, an optional sales tax that Catoosa voters approved in March 2011.

State legislators in 1996 passed a law that allows citizens to adopt short-term taxes (the tax must be voted on every five years) to fund capital outlays.

For nearly 15 years, Catoosans have overwhelmingly supported ESPLOST I, II, III and IV. More than $98 million was collected - one penny at a time - from 1997 through 2010.

Those funds paid for construction of Heritage High and Middle schools, buying buses, upgrading technology and adding classrooms throughout the county.

Nearly 88 percent of the voters were in favor of ESPLOST IV, which was approved just before a tornado on April 27, 2011, wreaked havoc at several of the county's schools.

Insurance settlements paid for the rebuilding of Ringgold High and Middle schools as well as repairs to the primary school and the school system offices following the storm. None of the EPLOST money, earmarked for a specified project list, was used for tornado-related recovery efforts.

Work at LFO is a EPLOST project that is part of the system's long-term goal of maintaining "facility equitability as part of our systemwide plan," according to school spokeswoman Marissa Brower.

Work at LFO will not be confined to only the science wing, according to school officials, and is seen as a two phase project.

This summer the entire school has been retrofitted with a sprinkler system as well as having new lighting and new ceilings installed. Hydrants have been installed on the campus and soon additional parking will be added between the school and Battlefield Parkway.

And the work does not stop there. Workers have already begun removing the gymnasium's stage in preparation for Phase Two of the LFO project.

The existing gymnasium will become an auxiliary gym and a larger, more modern facility - a performance gym - will be built between it (the current gym) and the football stadium where lighting will be upgraded.

Plans also call for improvements to the main entrance with its covered bus loading/unloading area as well as renovations of the administrative offices, the cafeteria/kitchen and media center.

"It's been a challenge," project superintendent for EMJ Construction project superintendent Karl Daniel said.

But the project is on schedule and efforts now are focused on preparing the newly refurbished classrooms for an Aug. 28 open house and the first day of classes for the fall semester that begins Sept. 4.