Open house scheduled for new La Center Middle School

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The brand-new La Center Middle School opened to students for the start of the 2021-2022 school year in September, capping off more than a year of work funded by a voter-approved construction bond.

The $37 million, 85,000-square-foot building has a capacity for 550 students and houses the La Center School District’s sixth, seventh and eighth grades. District leaders broke ground on the project in May 2020, after the project received the needed funds after voters approved a bond in February 2018 with close to 66% in favor of the measure.

An open house event at the new school located at 2001 Northeast Lockwood Creek Road is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25.

“It’s fabulous to be in this building,” said La Center Middle School Principal Lauri Landerholm as The Reflector visited the school on Oct. 14.

Though mostly complete, Landerholm said there are a few things left on the project “punch list” that need to be finished.

Landerholm said the new building features a number of improvements from the middle school’s old space at the campus it shared with elementary students.

“Size and space is number one, but probably the thing that is most appealing is the openness and the light,” Landerholm said.

La Center School District Superintendent Peter Rosenkranz said the old campus had a gym for large group activities, while now the middle school has three spaces, through a commons area featuring a “learning stairs” setup and the building’s large and small gyms.

Other improvements include a dedicated career and technical education room, more science classroom space, common learning spaces outside of classrooms and mini conference rooms for group projects.

Rosenkranz said the new space provides a psychological benefit for the district’s middle schoolers.

“You can see it in the kids. They seem to just walk a little taller. It’s pretty incredible,” Rosenkranz said.

Landerholm said ongoing supply chain and workforce issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a delay in some of the final items, though the building was able to open to students in time for the Sept. 7 first day of school for the district.

“The folks (subcontractors) are either out on a brand new start of a construction project or they’re just having a hard time getting other folks in here to finish,” Landerholm said. “With the supply chain, there’s nothing you can do.”

Landerholm said the new building has made it easier to adapt to COVID-19 protocols compared to the old facility, in part because of the additional space the school features.

“The kids really want to be back in school, so they’re overall very good about wearing their masks and keeping their masks where they need to be,” Landerholm said.

The new building addressed overcrowding at what was once the district’s K-8 campus, as now it can be utilized exclusively for elementary students.

“It’s much more user friendly all the way around,” Landerholm said.

The new building gave students “a responsibility, but also ownership to treat the building well,” Landerholm said.

“It’s certainly an asset and investment from the community, for the community, and it’s going to be here for years to come,” Landerholm said. 

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