LAKEWOOD — The first concession Lakewood High School had to make to construction on its first day of school happened before any students arrived Sept. 7.
“The air conditioning is down,” custodian Darryl Campbell said. “That’s why all the doors are open to the outside. This building was designed to have AC going to cool it down, but the AC system was right in the middle of the construction site, so there’s nothing we could do but rip it out.”
Campbell nonetheless expressed optimism that the building would retain plenty of warmth in winter months to come, and opined that last year’s first day of school “was much worse,” because work on storm drainage drastically limited the amount of parking. All those parking spots are available this year.
Indeed, even as the school buses parked in the middle of 11th Avenue to let students out, they seemed fairly blase about the impact of the ongoing, expansive construction project that’s literally right next door to the existing school building.
Senior Robin Grumlich barely looked up from texting on her phone in the cafeteria, as tractors and other big rigs moved earth and swung beams to build the new school, which won’t be ready for occupancy until next year.
“We’d already dealt with worse near the end of last school year,” Grumlich said. “It’s not too hard to stay focused, even when they get really loud.”
Juniors Adysen Warner, Helios Morgan and Sydney Gormley agreed that they hadn’t experienced any transportation or parking troubles as a result of the construction.
“It’s a little annoying for sports purposes, but it’s pretty easy to get around it,” said Gormley, who agreed with Morgan and Warner that they’re looking forward to having a new school for their senior years in 2017.
LHS Athletic Director Matt Blair barely registered the construction, as his attentions were fixed on the “Cougar Crew,” a group of upperclassmen who shepherded the freshman class of roughly 200 through the facility for nearly three hours before the rest of the student population arrived.
“It gives these freshman an outstanding start to their school year,” Blair said. “They can get rolling right away, with guidance on how to take on the challenges they’ll face.”
Junior Paige Shimkus took part in the “Cougar Crew” for her second year in a row.
“I really like being able to give the freshmen a sense of perspective,” Shimkus said. “They can be so nervous, so I try to help them develop a sense of confidence and security. They shouldn’t be afraid to try new things.”
Like her peers, Shimkus remains unfazed by the construction.
“Occasionally, we can hear them working while we’re in class, but for the most part, we each just mind our own business,” Shimkus said. “Lakewood is still Lakewood.”