Th e $25.5 million Lake High School is scheduled to open for classes on Aug. 21.
MILLBURY -- Lake Local Schools officials approved a contract Wednesday that freezes teachers' pay and increases their medical insurance cost, then proudly toured their new high school with members of the media.
The glistening high school replaces the former building that was mostly destroyed by a tornado in June, 2010. The 144,000-square-foot facility that cost $25.5 million -- none of which came from local taxpayers -- features 28 classrooms and will house 450 students when classes start Aug. 21.
Lake Schools Superintendent Jim Witt walks between the new trophy cases in the main hallway during the media tour.
The one-year teachers' contract covers 87 members of the Lake Education Association and was adopted less than a week before voters decide on a three-year, 6.75-mill request for an operating levy officials say is vital if the district is to avoid a deficit in 2013-14 and avoid more layoffs in addition to the eight teachers who lost their jobs this year.
Under the new pact, the teachers' cost of family coverage rises to $113 a month from $80. This measure, along with the pay freeze, is expected to trim the school system's costs by $180,000. Lake Treasurer Jeff Carpenter described the new agreement as "a considerable financial benefit to the district." Teacher salaries range from $31,600 to $70,500.
As a precaution, the school board also approved asking the Wood County auditor to certify the same levy amount for the November ballot in case voters reject the request Tuesday. The new millage would generate $1.47 million in its first year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $200 annually.
"We have to get this levy passed this year or it will be a very dire situation," said Tim Krugh, president of the board of education.
Planning for the new high school began shortly after more than half of the previous building was destroyed by the twister that took seven lives in Lake Township. Construction was financed with insurance money, a grant from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, and private donations.
"Our goal was to have it done by August of 2012, and do it without taxpayer dollars. We've accomplished that," Mr. Krugh said
The media center at the school will have $10,000 worth of new books once it's finished.
Located on the Lemoyne Road campus next to the middle school, the high school has a new auditorium with state-of-the art acoustics, four science labs, and a new gym with bleachers on all sides in an arena-style arrangement.
Dave Shaffer, the district's athletic director and director of building and grounds, said the auditorium constitutes the biggest single upgrade compared to the old high school.
"It's really the crown jewel of the whole building," said Mr. Shaffer, who oversaw the high school project.
The auditorium seats 517 and was influenced by the theaters at Penta Joint Vocational School and Woodward High School. Lake officials toured both of these and then added their own touches, said Dan Tabor, the architect from the Collaborative Inc. who designed the new high school.
"It always helps to look at the benchmarks and compare notes," he said.
The auditorium in the old school also served as the gym, Mr. Shaffer said, and "wasn't much of an auditorium."
The science labs are universal and can be used for any discipline such as chemistry, physics, or biology. Officials decided this was the way to go for maximum flexibility. The lab stations have adjustable tables that power up and down.
The gym's arena-style seating will allow students and adults to sit apart, Lee Herman, the high school principal, said.
"At games, kids can behave in ways that are totally appropriate but that adults don't like," he explained. "This will make it easier for the adults."
A plaque under the flagpoles at the school honors those who died and those who made other sacrifices.
The principal said he has been putting in long days getting the building ready for students. He is waiting for $10,000 worth of books to arrive for the new media center.
"The whole process is kind of a labor of love. They don't teach you these things in grad school. But it's been nice creating a new building out of the devastation," he said.
The new building was designed with the tornado in mind. It includes "safe zones" in the interior that would provide shelter from violent acts of nature, Mr. Tabor said. These areas have no outside exposure and walls that rise to a reinforced roof deck that won't blow off.
The building includes about 5,000 square feet for the district's administrative offices. Superintendent Jim Witt said the goal was to make everything simple and functional.
"We feel we have really made different use of our space. We didn't want a Mercedes. Nothing is over the top. It's just nice," he said.
The school will be open for the public to tour from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Contact Carl Ryan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.