New building plans excite students and staff, raise safety concerns

Big changes coming to building, amid major safety discussions


Emily Kruse

Students come and go from the main building to the annex in freezing temperatures. “It would be more efficient if they were connected, especially in bad weather.” senior Hasiya Asuku said. “I know when it rains I hate having to go outside and get my outfit wet, and it would save time during the passing periods to get from the annex to the main building.” After the construction of Lawrence High School, the main building and annex will finally be connected and end student worries.

By Macy Landes and Connor Schmaus

The district is moving forward with the remodel of Lawrence High’s campus, decided by a unanimous vote of the school board on Jan. 28.

The designs for the building, drawn up by architects at Gould Evans, emphasize a secure campus in addition to a more student-friendly environment, with more natural light and open learning spaces.

After the bond was voted on and approved by the community in 2017, the district’s facilities and planning committee, which includes board members GR Gordon-Ross and Shannon Kimball, worked with architects and managers to consult teachers, students and community members about how the redesign will look.

“When it’s a high school, especially a large high school, there are so many different people that are impacted,” chief operations officer Kyle Hayden said. “All these people have a huge stake in what’s happening there.”

From a practical perspective, many see the design as necessary for improving daily school life. Health teacher and 1992 Lawrence High graduate Adam Green hopes this remodel will bring together changes the school has seen in the past.

“We’ve had a lot of additions, and they’re kind of like little Band-Aids, and now we’re going to get, hopefully, a new building, where there’s plenty of square footage available for classrooms and just kind of an update to an older school,” he said.

While they are excited by the changes, some Lawrence High teachers have expressed concerns for student and faculty safety following the remodel. Many classrooms will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and, in the event of a lockdown, teachers would need to move cabinets in front of their walls in order to protect students from the view of an intruder.

“We haven’t, like, demoed anything yet, so we can still make changes that might be able to make it safer,” jewelry and ceramics teacher Deena Amont said. “And no one wants to sacrifice having a positive learning environment where people can get together and see each other, obviously, but there have to be some engineering solutions.”

School board members said they believe proper safety precautions have been taken into consideration, citing close work between architects and teachers on individual designs.

“Our architects have gone out and met with different groups of teachers,” Kimball said. “We’re trying to strike a balance to meet security concerns and create an environment where our students want to learn and our staff want to teach.”

Architects at Gould Evans have decreased the construction time to 27 months, in order to reduce impact on daily student life.

“We started this project with a 30-month construction schedule,” said John Wilkins, a principal of Gould Evans. “One of the really cool things we’ve accomplished is that within three semesters of renovation, pretty much all of the classrooms are going to be done.”

Amont, who discussed her needs for her new classroom with the architects, said they were able to incorporate most of her ideas into the plans.

“You don’t always get everything that you want,” she said. “So I think that they listened to what I had to say and, given the constraints that they had to work with, I think they met most of the things that I requested.”

Students also welcome the proposed changes. Senior Cole Shupert anticipates more comfortable access to the annex for future students.

“You won’t have to go outside in the winter, which would be nice so that you don’t have to carry a coat around just to travel to your classes in the annex,” he said.

However, like teachers, Shupert fears that security won’t be considered enough. He believes control of the entrances is key.

“I feel like if the entrances are secured well, which is a big ‘if,’ especially with the way the building is currently constructed, changes on the inside wouldn’t be too much of a problem,” Shupert said.

Excluding the department-specific classes remodeled last year, the construction will serve as a demonstration of this style of design. Amont hopes this will allow changes to be made along the way, as $1.7 million will be left for changes and expansion after completion.

“We have a really great opportunity to design and build a more cohesive building that’s safer than what we have now,” she said. “We have this great opportunity to do that, and I would hate to see it being wasted.”