By Megan Kelley
In November, two years will have passed since Orion voters approved a $160 million, 7.491 mils, three series bond for Lake Orion Community Schools.
In these two years, LOCS has nearly completed the work scheduled for series one.
The current bond process allows time for design teams consisting of select community members and stakeholders to meet and work out the details of each individual project. Each building and special section (i.e. Technology) of the bond has its own designated design team.
Throughout this process, Assistant Superintendent Heidi Mercer gives regular updates on projects at school board meetings.
Series one of the bond includes Lake Orion High School (learning spaces and soccer stadium upgrades), Carpenter Elementary, Orion Oaks Elementary, Webber Elementary and the new Early Childhood Center.
Of these projects, the two completed are the learning spaces at LOHS and the soccer stadium upgrades.
The learning spaces were completed in fall of 2019 on either side of the main office. Existing lockers were removed from both areas and seating was put into place as well as technology. The areas were used by students before and after school, during passing time and during lunch hours. Teachers were also able to use the space for class activities.
Additionally, the soccer stadium at LOHS has undergone heavy construction as well.
As for what is left in series one, two projects are expected to wrap up in the next month or so: Orion Oaks and Carpenter.
In the past several months, Carpenter Elementary has undergone a good amount of construction. Including the addition of two classrooms and a S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) room.
Carpenter’s parking lot and bus loop have also been reconstructed to improve traffic flow and their main office has also been renovated to include a secure entry.
Orion Oaks has had similar work done, with the addition of one classroom.
Orion Oaks did however pose a unique challenge for design teams when creating a secure entryway. In order to achieve this, the main office is being remodeled into a S.T.E.M. lab and the main office is being brought forward to where the original entryway was located.
Like Carpenter, Orion Oaks’ parking lot and bus loop are being redesigned to improve traffic flow.
Additionally, by the completion of the bond, each elementary school in the district are expected to receive playground upgrades, media center improvements and S.T.E.M. spaces.
Also in series one of the bond are two two-year projects, Webber Elementary and the Early Childhood Center.
Both of these buildings have significant construction taking place.
The Early Childhood Center, located on the corner of Joslyn and Clarkston Roads, is an entirely new facility. Complete with 18 classrooms, a library, gross motor space and a brand-new playground.
Currently, pre-school is run through the CERC building.
Webber is also expected to go under some heavy construction as well. Because of this, the Webber project is a two-phase project.
This summer, Webber’s main office was renovated to include a secure entryway along with some updates to the teachers’ lounge.
Next summer, construction on an entirely new addition is expected to take place. This addition will have a brand-new media center as well as 13 classrooms and two break out spaces. Webber’s current media center will be renovated into a S.T.E.M. classroom.
During this time, Webber’s parking lot is going to be expanded with improved traffic flow.
Both Webber and the Early Childhood Center are expected to be completed in the fall of 2021.
In current times, not only is the bond propelling the district forward, but it has also allowed them to provide necessary resources for students like technology.
This year, the district has been able to go one-to-one for students with technology. This means that each student is eligible to receive their own district-issued device. And in the middle of a pandemic, the importance of technology cannot be overstated.
“If we hadn’t passed the bond, I don’t know where we would be at with technology, honestly,” Mercer said. “The bond really did help us with technology during COVID because we needed more devices. So, had we not been able to fall back on the bond we would have been in serious trouble…the community supporting the bond was critical at this point. I have no idea what would have happened if we didn’t have that.”
Additionally, all classrooms in the district are expected to be fitted with smart boards and audio enhancements. This will occur for each building when the building receives their planned construction.
As of now, series two has begun with design teams meeting for both Stadium Drive Elementary and Paint Creek Elementary.
Even in these challenging times, the district, with the help of GMB architects and their contractor Rewold and Sons, has managed to stay on schedule.
“Things have been great. Honestly, knock on wood, we have not run into many problems. There have been a few bumps here and there with just a few things, as expected in any kind of construction project. But overall, with as many projects as we have going at this point, honestly, it’s gone extremely well,” said Mercer. “I would say that working with GMB and Rewold and Sons, to this point, has really been positive, we really have a collaborative team.”