As students begin the 2012-13 school year on Aug. 10 at Leesville High School, they will notice a few changes and experience works in progress throughout the school.


As students begin the 2012-13 school year on Aug. 10 at Leesville High School, they will notice a few changes and experience works in progress throughout the school.
Leesville High School renovations are funded by a 32.93 annual millage levy that was passed by special election on May 1, 2010. The levy funds $21.5 million in 20-year general obligation bonds, all of which is to be used to renovate and expand the school. All renovations are for academic improvements; none go to athletic programs or facilities.
Most of the completed renovations have taken place in the administrative offices, including counselor and faculty facilities. These were done first as they will remain part of the new high school construction. Most of the rest of the building will eventually be torn down to make room for other structures.
The administration and counseling area has been refurbished with new floors, walls, ceilings, doors, cabinets, air conditioning, heating and restroom and break areas. One addition is a dedicated office for the military family life counselor, who serves as a liaison between military familiess and the civilian school system. .
“That used to be a desk and chair shoved into a corner,” said Jackie Self, superintendent of schools for Vernon Parish. “We are especially proud to able to provide this addition for our military families.”
The front office has been reconfigured and remodeled to make the parking lot and bus lanes visible to the staff and offer a more welcoming entrance.
The school auditorium has been reroofed and nearby restrooms have been remodeled, but more improvements lie ahead, said Mark Freshley, Leesville High School principal.
“We support a lot of community activities in the auditorium,” said Freshley, referring to performances sponsored by the Vernon Parish Arts Council and other events. “These are renovations that benefit the whole community. We still have some preliminary work that needs to be done in the auditorium ahead of its upcoming renovation,” which includes new seats, an orchestra pit and upgraded lighting and sound systems.
Freshley added that the construction team is working hard to get as much pre-construct work done as possible as time and resources allow.
“We are trying to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible,” he said. “We demolished one hallway with six classrooms already, and that’s about six months ahead of the future construction.”
The annexed gymnasium, which needs about a month after school starts before it is complete, is upgraded with new changing room and shower facilities, basketball hoops, volleyball capability, storage area, office, heating and ventilation and a rubberized floor. Some wall repair and new paint is yet to come.
Will Jenkins, project superintendent, said there have been many upgrades made to the building’s outdated electrical system, and computer connectivity is also being implemented.
“There is a janitor’s closet that has been enlarged and renovated to serve as a (server hub) for school computers,” he said.
One of the largest visible changes at Leesville High School is the 67,000 square-foot, two-story structure that stands squarely by the school’s parking lot. It’s only a metal skeleton of a building now, and there’s still double the size to add on, but Jenkins said this will become the main focus of construction efforts after the gym renovation.
“The concrete work will soon begin, then the other half of the building goes up and will connect with the existing library,” he said. “This building may be completed in 14-15 months.”
Freshley added that completion of this portion of the construction is critical.
“Once this building is complete, we’ll be able to move the classrooms into it and then work on tearing down the old building and replacing it with an expanded courtyard and other facilities,” he said.
Upcoming improvements and projects include:
-New kitchen and dining space
-New library
-Existing library repurposed to accommodate home economics and drafting classes
-Welding component added to shop area
-Redo parking areas, bus lanes, driveways and walkways
“The renovations are also completely up to code for safety, including sprinkler systems and fire alarms,” Jenkins said. “All new facilities are also fully Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.”
Freshley said the old school was well kept and fulfilled its purpose, but it was time for a change.
“The school had 50-year old (amenities), and now it will offer 21st century opportunities to the students,” he said. “These improvements will hopefully last us another 40-50 years.”
Self said the upgrades will benefit teachers as well as students.
“These improvements will enhance our school climate and offer both students and staff an enhanced atmosphere for learning,” Self said.
To pass by the school now, with its piles of heavy metal beams and construction materials placed throughout the parking lot and bus lanes, it’s hard to imagine it will be ready to receive students Aug. 10. But Self assures the community it will be cleared and cleaned up in time for the first day of school.