When discussing every part of what is new for the school of approximately 1,000 students, his description was, in every case, “How awesome this is going to be for the kids.”
High school principal Terry Van Diver said, “Every day something transpires and something new pops up.”
“When I walk into classrooms I see the pride in our students’ faces.”
The entire project is at an expenditure of $12.5 million, all of which is paid for out of E-SPLOST IV funds. Leading up to this construction was the completion of Heritage High School, which alleviated the overcrowding of existing LFO and Ringgold high schools. Heritage Highwas constructed using E-SPLOST III funds.
“We must be good stewards of taxpayers’ money to maintain our facilities — including paint, new tile and water lines,” said Suits.
The high school is a much brighter place all-around this year as crews spent virtually all summer installing new ceiling tiles and lighting fixtures. Additionally, while the ceiling tiles were being replaced, the construction crew took advantage and installed a new sprinkler system as well.
All seven science classrooms have been turned into instructional pods with interactive learning labs placed around the perimeter. Classrooms will be outfitted with the latest in lab equipment and safety features. Even as this interview was taking place, new equipment and supplies were being delivered.
“Our kids needed and deserved this facelift,” said Suits, a career educator in his 10th year with the Catoosa school system. He has previously spent time at Ringgold High School and four years as the principal at Wood Station Elementary.
The improvements to the school are being done in two phases, with the second phase currently under construction. The timeline is for all work to be completed by December 2013.
One huge addition to the school will be the construction of new gymnasium, which will encompass a sunken gym floor with a walking track on the level above. Also included will be new classrooms, new weight training facilities, and an auxiliary training area for cheerleading and wrestling. The new gym will be located at the end of the existing gymnasium, which will be left for other athletic opportunities.
Already completed is a new concession stand, on the visitor's side of the football field, that includes restrooms and a ticket window.
Phase two of the project will also include some type of improvement for the school's currently crowded cafeteria.
“I believe our community is very excited about what all these improvements mean to our students,” Suits said. “In many ways a community's pride in its schools drives the overall pride it has in itself.
“We also appreciate the patience of our parents and other affected community members as they face new drop-off procedures for their children, “ said Suits. “We also are very appreciative of the assistance given to us by the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department.
“We are also appreciative of the partnership and considerations given to us by our developer, EMJ Corporation,” said Suits. “Without their willingness to work with us we would not be as far along as we are in the improvements here at the school.”
This project was actually put on hold for about eight months due to the April 2011 tornado that struck Ringgold, said Marissa Bower, communications specialist for the school system.
In addition to a new curriculum and new construction, the school year also brings on new faces among the faculty and athletic staff at the school.
New at LFO are: Houston White (economics), Elizabeth Willis (special education), Kim Ingle (special education), Rebecca Storr (math), Taylor Billingham (English), Krista Davis (special education), Justin Yoshida (Spanish) and Lori Moore (business).
Also joining the staff in the attendance office is Rhonda Eaves.
New in the athletic department, Houston White, Daniel Hearn, Josh Mariakis, Dan Emery and Dan Parks have joined the football staff. Mariakis will also be the head wrestling coach, while White will take over the track program. Jonathan Schneider has been named as the school's assistant athletic director. Lisa Rogers Gray is taking over as the head softball coach, with Michael Langston and Shawn Crawford as assistant coaches. Jonathan Willard is the new coach of the LFO cross country team.
Traffic to be re-routed during construction phase
• Traffic around the school is one way.
• The lane in front of the school is for buses only.
The school requests that parents dropping off students enter the school property normally, but follow the road to the back of the school towards the JROTC building, All traffic will go down by the tennis courts, with the left lane turning to go out by Battlefield Primary. The right lane will proceed down by the baseball and softball fields to Lakeshore Drive. There will be no traffic coming up from Battlefield Primary or the baseball/softball fields. The one-way road begins just below the visitor's side of the football stadium. As completed construction allows, changes may be made to alter the above traffic flow plan.