LANCASTER – Schools in the city of Lancaster have announced plans to build a new high school with a tentative opening date of January 2025.
Superintendent Steve Wigton made the announcement Thursday during the Lancaster-Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce State of Schools address.
While details are still being finalized, Wigton said the district hopes to start the new building by spring 2022.
“The new building will be constructed on the athletic fields that are currently behind the Career Technology building,” Wigton said. “In the north, we plan to have a parking lot, which will serve as a marching band training ground after school.”
Wigton said the district is still in the early stages of the process and changes are likely to occur.
Early estimates say the total cost of the new building and sports fields is $ 120 million, with the state of Ohio supporting about $ 45 million of that amount.
After the presentation, Wigton said additional taxpayer funding should not be needed after voters approved a bond levy in May 2019.
Plans for the new high school
Plans include a new access road that will lead from Ohio 37 directly to the new building, which will be used primarily for buses and staff. A new training ground would also be added next to the parking lot along the new access road.
On the first floor, students and teachers will be greeted by a long hallway in the center of the school, with a new basketball court, wrestling area and a new auditorium.
The first floor also has space for career technology programs, which Wigton says will allow all students in those programs to be under one roof. Currently, students in these programs are either in high school or at the Stanbery Career Center on Mulberry St.
The second floor will house the high school media center with a rotunda, art classrooms and high rise areas. Each floor contains approximately 30 classrooms and laboratories.
Overall, the new building will add almost 150,000 square feet of additional space, projected at 363,063 square feet when completed, compared to the existing 214,821 square foot building.
New baseball and softball fields on the horizon
Wigton also announced the construction of two new athletic fields for baseball and softball. The land will be built and usable before the opening of the new high school.
The athletic fields – originally used for baseball and softball – will be built on the current site of the former Thomas Ewing Junior High building.
“It’s going to be a baseball and softball field to start with,” Wigton said. “Then, once the whole project is finished, [the softball field] will be converted into a second baseball field. “
After the old Thomas Ewing High School was demolished, Wigton said two softball fields would be built on the same field.
The inauguration of the new fields will take place later this summer, with a completion date slated for spring 2022.
Regarding Fulton Field and the tennis courts, Wigton reassured the public that none of the facilities will be altered during the construction process.
ESC, Fairfield Career Center provide updates
Lancaster City schools weren’t the only ones making announcements on Thursday, as the Fairfield County Educational Service Center and Fairfield Career Center provided updates during the state of the schools speech.
ESC Superintendent Marie Ward announced that ESC and the local Bloom-Carroll school district will team up to expand preschool and early learning services at Lithopolis Middle School. The Bloom Carroll Learning Center will also house the Prep for Success program, currently hosted at Forest Rose School in Lancaster.
Ward also announced that ESC’s Learning Steps preschool program will begin returning all students to in-person learning in the near future.
“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to prioritize serving our children with disabilities,” Ward said. “The space would not allow us to bring in typical peers. This year we will revert to inclusion of typical peers. This registration process is underway.”
Meanwhile, Eastland-Fairfield Career Center Superintendent Kimberly Miller announced the expansion of programs to reach middle school students in Bloom-Carroll and Amanda-Clearcreek Districts.
According to Miller, the “Career Connections” satellite programs will primarily target grade 8 students in these two districts.
“These are career exploration programs … and our goal is not to bring students into a particular field, but to have them explore all of the different career options available to them,” said Miller said. “As they grow and progress in school, they can choose the career option that is best for them.”
Miller said at least six other school districts associated with Eastland-Fairfield Career Centers offer similar programs at the high school level.
Miller noted that the Career Center is seeing an increase in its healthcare, cybersecurity, and interactive media programs, and that the Career Center is looking to expand its medical, maintenance and logistics offerings.
Looking ahead, Miller said the Career Center seeks to continue to grow in diversity and that it will add a director of student support services to its central office to help students find resources and opportunities to succeed.
About 50% of Career Center graduates go directly to employment opportunities, while a third of graduates go on to further study at two- and four-year institutes.