Look down on a rainy summer day at the muddy construction site for the new Lee High School, you will see cars, trucks and heavy equipment, but you not might not see much activity. Don’t be fooled.
“Now that you have roofs on all the buildings, we can do more inside,” said Earl Kern, program director for the construction project. “The rain doesn’t affect you as much when you do your interior work.”
Kern, who works for CSRS/Tillage Construction, which is overseeing the project, gave a media tour on June 15 of the $54.7 million high school. It is scheduled to open its doors for as many as 1,200 students in August 2016, the start of the 2016-17 school year.
General contractor Milton J. Womack Inc., of Baton Rouge, is on track to finish construction by the end of January, which will give Principal Nan McCann and her team several months to move in and get ready. Since August 2013, they’ve been holding school at an old junior high school at 4510 Bawell St. Lee High officials expect to enroll more than 600 students there this fall.
Lee is a magnet high school, similar in that respect to Baton Rouge Magnet High. McCann is principal of that high school as well.
The 26 acres fronted by Lee Drive and bounded on the south by Bayou Duplantier was long home to the old Lee High, a sprawling school built in 1959 over the rolling terrain. The facilities fell into disrepair over the next half century until voters in 2008 agreed to pay for a new high school.
The new school emerging is much different. It’s divided into four buildings. One is the commons building which includes the cafeteria, gym, as well as performance and exhibition spaces. The other three buildings are independent academies. They have identical designs but will focus on much different things: bioscience, digital and media arts and engineering and robotics.
All four buildings are busy with work.
The furthest along is Building B, future home of the digital and media arts academy, and it’s a good indicator of what the new school will look like. Exterior red panels made of an aluminum compound look like shiny, new age bricks. There’s lots of glass on the exterior as well as glass dividers on the interior. Large labs and open spaces predominate. Many can be closed or opened up via removable walls. The idea is to create flexible spaces that won’t be limited in their use as education changes.
The element that gets the most attention is a large atrium in each academy meant for large student projects. The architects call it the “Wow space.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake went on the June 15 tour and came away impressed.
“It’s incredible. It’s state of the art,” he said. “I think you’re going to have students from all over wanting to be in this school.”
Lee High School
Total Project Budget: $54.7 million.
Address: 1105 Lee Drive.
Completion Date: January 2016.
Opening for students: August 2016.
Project Description: One commons building and three themed-academies: bioscience, digital and media arts, and engineering and robotics.
Features: Customized laboratory and learning spaces in each three-story academy. The commons will house a gym, locker rooms, fitness center, a kitchen, dining area, JROTC, administrative offices as well as art, exhibition and performance spaces.
Square footage: 180,000 feet.
Acreage: 26 acres.
Principal: Nan McCann.
Associate Principal: Sharon Sims.
Contractor: Milton J. Womack Inc. of Baton Rouge.
Architects: GraceHebert Architects of Baton Rouge, and associate architects DLR Group, based in Kansas City.