Westlake unveils new high school

The main entrance rotunda of the new Westlake High School adjoins the existing Performing Arts Center.

On Sept. 21, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the new Westlake High School, giving parents and the public a chance to tour the facility.
Westlake High School principal Timothy Freeman opened his remarks in the gym of the new high school by referencing the gym’s location on the site of the old high school parking lot.

“We are actually sitting on top of countless parking spaces that students and teachers occupied just less than three years ago. It’s a pretty powerful feeling,” said Freeman. “For me, I try to get in touch with the hope, the planning, the optimism, the energy and the joy that the spots we’re standing on right now offered to people. I think some of that energy stays behind, and right now it exists in the foundations of this new building. … I spent countless mornings looking out  the windows of the PAC [Performing Arts Center] watching the parking lot being disassembled and turned into this beautiful facility that you’re going to see. It’s a pretty cool moment to reflect on.”

Conversely, the new parking lot, which is still under construction, will be situated where the previous high school building stood.

Freeman reflected on the process of building the new high school, starting with the passage of a bond issue in spring 2010. The bond issue financed the construction of the new high school and the new Lee Burneson Middle School, which opened last month.

The new building offers “270,000 square feet of state-of-the-art educational space,” Freeman said. “With responsible budget management, we were able to have over 60,000 additional square feet in this building for the same cost.”

Some of the features of the new school include press boxes in the competition gym and gently sloped roofs for low maintenance and efficiency. An auxiliary gym includes a track with a composite floor that enables use of the space for multiple sports activities. Security features include air-locked doors, requiring all visitors to be buzzed into the building from an enclosed entry area.

Projectors, smart board technology and classroom amplification systems were installed in all the instructional areas. A wireless environment was modeled after Cuyahoga Community College’s wi-fi setup. Engineering, modular technology, computer-aided design rooms and a unique fabrication lab allow students to work with things they may later use in college.

Connecting the past to the future, the new school incorporates elements from the old Dover Village High School – later known as the Red Brick School House –  including a brick-and-sandstone arch in the rotunda, the multi-use space at the entry that connects to the Red Brick Community Room, using materials from the old Dover School.

Freeman explained that attention was paid to cost-saving, eco-friendly measures. “The building is energy zoned so that parts of the building can be shut down for specific events, like dances and sporting events. This allows us to only use the spaces that we need to save energy. In the rotunda, there is an energy dashboard – a live, real-time display that will allow teachers and students to view energy consumption of the building.”

Senior student Jack Martello described the new school’s impact on the city, saying, “Our new high school symbolizes more than a new beginning. It symbolizes the perseverance, motivation, organization, cooperation and leadership our citizens of Westlake have displayed. This building also creates a special bond among Westlake citizens, a bond that cannot be broken. With this new school comes new goals, new relationships, but most importantly a new motto – We are Westlake.”
Joe Kraft, co-director of Citizens for Westlake Schools, the residents group that worked on the bond campaign, thanked all those involved in the passage of the bond issue and construction of the school.

“Congratulations, Westlake,” Kraft said, “this is really quite a community achievement, isn’t it? Congratulations to our leadership for getting the job done right. Congratulations and thank you to Superintendent Dr. Dan Keener, president of the board Tom Mays, and the board of education. And of course, thank you, taxpayers: your support is profound. It’s obvious you value education and our students of today and future generations.”

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Volume 5, Issue 20, Posted 9:25 AM, 10.01.2013