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Lakewood Ranch High addition back on track for 2023

The School Board of Manatee County is viewing designs for the addition at Lakewood Ranch High School, with construction expected to begin in May.

The new addition will connect to Building 5, which will allow for a new courtyard to be created for students to gather. Rendering courtesy of Hepner Architects and the School District of Manatee County.
The new addition will connect to Building 5, which will allow for a new courtyard to be created for students to gather. Rendering courtesy of Hepner Architects and the School District of Manatee County.
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Years after the School Board of Manatee County approved an addition at Lakewood Ranch High School in 2017, the design for the addition is complete. 

Construction on the addition originally was scheduled to begin in the 2020-2021 school year, but plans were delayed due to changes the board made in attendance zones. When the School District of Manatee County was working to zone for Parrish Community High School, communities, including GreyHawk Landing, Mill Creek and Country Creek, were going to be assigned to the new high school in Parrish, which opened in 2019. The district wanted to be sure the addition at Lakewood Ranch High would be needed as immediately as originally thought.

After complaints from parents who wanted their children to remain in the Lakewood Ranch High system, those communities were kept in the Lakewood Ranch High zone. The immediate need once again was clear.

School board members had a chance to view designs for the new 20-classroom, two-floor addition during a Jan. 11 meeting. 

The addition initially was meant to replace about 20 portables located between Buildings 4 and 5, but John Kidwell, the principal with Hepner Architects working on the Lakewood Ranch High addition, said the removal of the portables would cost between $400,000 and $500,000.

“It’s a secure area away from student movement, and it would make much more financial sense to the project to not have to spend that money relocating the portables that you’re just going to get rid of anyway,” Kidwell said. 

As a result, the addition now will be constructed behind Building 5 with covered walkways connecting the two buildings. A courtyard will be created with cross sidewalks with benches and planters to give students an area to gather.

Included in the new building will be two bathrooms, two science labs, teacher planning and storage rooms, mechanical rooms and an elevator.

Kidwell said the two science labs are needed on campus. 

“In the school, we started looking at the student population, and based on the numbers, they were dangerously short on science labs,” Kidwell said. “We actually were able to convert some of the classrooms into two new science labs that should put them above their required minimums because they’re expecting, as you can imagine, more students to come in the future.”

Dustin Dahlquist, the principal of Lakewood Ranch High School, along with science teachers, gave input on the design of the science lab rooms to ensure they would fit the needs of students and staff. 

A retention pond also is being created on campus close to the fields used for sports and after-school activities and the barn area for the school’s agriculture program. 

“We found a place where instead of ruining three fields, we only ruined one and kept the other two intact,” Kidwell said. “It’s really half a field, and it’s still usable space out there.”

Mike Grill, a construction manager with Ajax Building Company, said the construction of the project, which has a budget of $13.2 million, should go smoothly. 

“We’re taking into consideration all the market conditions that are currently out there,” Grill said. “You can see it in every store you go to now with supply chain cost issues. We’re building that into our estimates and budgets that we’re providing to the district.”

Included in the project budget is $198,000 as a contingency for the increase in material costs. 

Although materials can be hard to acquire due to supply chain issues, such as roofing insulation taking 10 to 12 months to procure, Grill said the project is expected to be completed on time with completion in the fall of 2023. 

“This is all built into our schedule,” Grill said. “We don’t foresee any major issues with procurement.”

Grill said the school board should expect to have a Guaranteed Maximum Price contract ready for approval at the board’s April 26 board meeting. After the board approves the contract construction can begin. 

The 20-classroom addition will add 500 student stations to the campus. The additional seats will help the school accommodate its growing enrollment, which sits at 2,396 students and is 578 students over the school’s capacity. 

Cynthia Saunders, the superintendent of the School District of Manatee County, said additions being constructed at other high schools, such as Braden River High School, and school choice also will help with overcrowding as there is continued growth in Lakewood Ranch. 

Once the addition is complete, the School District of Manatee County will be able to remove the portables from campus.



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