ST. PETERSBURG — Construction crews have been busy at Lakewood High.
Within the past two years, the school became home to the Pinellas County School District's first rubberized running track and "student commons area" — a media center prototype for the district's middle and high schools.
About $2 million later, they're not done yet. The school will soon get an expanded cafeteria, a renovated auditorium, a new gym lobby and other improvements as part of an $8.6 million package approved this month by the School Board.
Most of that comes from the district's capital outlay fund, except for about $1 million from bond proceeds for a new free-standing building to house a combination weight room and wrestling room. The roughly $11 million total investment is expected to be completed by August 2019.
"When we're done, the hope is to walk away and give (the school) a completely new feel," said Clint Herbic, the district's associate superintendent of operational services, who presented the project for approval at the Feb. 14 board meeting.
Renderings by Hoffman Architects, who were paid about $622,000 for the design agreement, show added transparent coverings over outdoor courtyards that let in natural light and breezes. The coverings could collect rain water to be used by the school's Academy for Aquatic Management Systems and Environmental Technology.
Those coverings also will be added to the entrance of the school, next to where a new lobby will be built for the auditorium. The auditorium's acoustics and lighting will be brought up to current standards.
The gym will also get its first lobby and concession stand. Next door, the cafeteria will be expanded to have indoor and outdoor dining areas that Herbic likened to a food court in a mall. The outside seating area will be covered by shade structures, and Herbic said he hoped solar panels could be incorporated.
The school is also making a few infrastructure upgrades, including to the roof, and the drainage and electrical systems. Buildings built in different years with different colors of brick also will be made to look more uniform. In addition, the school's Center for Advanced Technologies got more power and server access for students.
"It's exciting to me and I know that's going to be very well embraced by both the students and the community at Lakewood High School," said Herbic, who served as an assistant principal at Lakewood for five years.
Board members unanimously approved the total project cost, noting that the school was due for upgrades.
"It does bring a sense of pride to the school," said board member Rene Flowers. "You could see all of the aesthetic and technical things that needed to occur there in order to bring the school up to where it needs to be."
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