School board approves updated construction agreement for Lawrence High School

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Lawrence High School senior Gary Schmidt, left, tells representatives of the design firm Gould Evans that they've done "an excellent job" on the plans for construction at LHS, from a student's perspective, during the school board's meeting on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Also pictured are Superintendent Anthony Lewis, board president Jessica Beeson, and board vice president Melissa Johnson.

A massive update to Lawrence High School is set to begin this summer that, among other things, aims to improve navigability, boost security and student privacy, and create a 21st-century learning environment.

The Lawrence school board received a revised update on the master plan for the school’s improvements at its Monday meeting. It also approved an amended construction management agreement with McCownGordon Construction, bringing the total guaranteed maximum price with that firm to $78.17 million for all of the district’s projects as part of its $87 million 2017 bond issue. The Lawrence High School portion of the projects comes to $46.2 million.

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The design firm behind the project, Gould Evans, has revised construction plans to include some items that District Chief Operations Officer Kyle Hayden told the board were in response to changes that came up after the master planning process began in January 2016.

“It takes a lot to do a project of this size and scale, so we started the same time as the middle schools and Free State, and it’s just taken us, in the scope, a little longer to get to where we are today,” said Whitney Lang, of Gould Evans, the design firm behind the project.

The firm has also laid out a complex plan to try to complete construction with as little interruption of the school’s day-to-day activities as possible.

“Construction won’t be easy; it will be taxing on people, for sure,” Hayden told the board.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Lawrence school district Chief Operations Officer Kyle Hayden looks to representatives of the design firm Gould Evans who were sitting in the audience at the school board’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Hayden and others presented an update on plans for a massive construction project at Lawrence High School, set to begin in May 2019.

The plans got the approval of Lawrence High School senior Gary Schmidt, who was the student representative on the board for Monday’s meeting.

“I’m kind of sad that I’m graduating,” he said, drawing a laugh from the board. “… You guys have done an excellent job, from a student’s perspective.”

Board member Shannon Kimball, who attended the meeting via phone because she was in Washington for the the National School Board Association Advocacy Institute, moved to approve the updated construction contract.

“I’m just so excited that we’ve reached this point,” she said. “… It’s very gratifying to see the progress that we’ve made over the years through the hard work of the board and our staff and our partners. I’m just so impressed with the plan that Gould Evans and McCownGordon have put together in partnership with the district for this building.”

In other business, the board:

• Heard from Martha Greenway, of Atlanta-based Greenway Strategy Group, an outline of what the upcoming strategic planning process will look like. The board approved a contract with the group for $69,200. Superintendent Anthony Lewis reiterated his desire for the process to be transparent, and for the community to hold the district accountable for meeting the plan’s goals.

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• Approved creation of a high school late start time implementation committee that will determine options and costs to delay the first bell to a time, or times, later than the current 8:05 a.m. The committee, which will comprise building administrators and staff, is expected to bring plan options back to the school board by July 31. That would allow enough time to plan a rollout for the 2020-21 school year, and the district could troubleshoot any problems prior to enrollment in January 2020.

• Heard from Leah Wisdom, the district’s director of equity, instruction and student services, plus several other faculty members and students about the AVID program, or Advancement Via Individual Determination. The program aims to help students with college readiness, including skills such as organization and note-taking strategies.

Four students who have enrolled in the AVID elective, which is available at the middle and high schools, spoke to the board about how the program has affected their lives and their performance in school. Wisdom, Hillcrest Elementary Principal Tammy Becker, and Carissa Miles, the AVID instructor at West Middle School, also asked the board to consider expanding schoolwide AVID initiatives to include elementary schools in the future.

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