Summer vacation will last longer for Lockwood Public Schools students, thanks to the construction projects under way to transform the campus from K-8 to K-12.
The first day of Lockwood classes will be Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day, according to Superintendent Tobin Novasio. The later start will allow time for more progress on the primary building roof and the middle school parking lot.
The construction, funded with the $49.9 million bond issue approved by Lockwood voters, is within budget and on schedule, as reported this week by the Gazette's Matt Hoffman.
In a phone interview Thursday with The Gazette, Novasio praised the firms working on the projects, which include a temporary freshman academy that eventually will be converted to career and technical education space and the main new high school building, which features a 2,700-seat gym and a 700-seat auditorium.
Collaborative Design Architects incorporated community input into the design, Novasio said. People attending public listening sessions wanted a large gym and auditorium and a focus on career and technical education.
"The community was vital in the planning," Novasio said. "It's a community school."
Langlas and Associates is the general contractor. QuEst is serving as the owner's representative who Novasio credited with keeping the projects on track and on budget. These contractors are local firms, keeping taxpayer school bond funds circulating in the community.
After classes begin in September, Novasio estimates Lockwood will have between 1,300 and 1,350 student on campus, including about 110 high school freshmen. Freshmen have the option of attending Billings Public Schools this year, and upperclassmen will continue their education through graduation in Billings high schools.
This fall's freshman class will become the first Lockwood High School graduating class in the spring of 2023.
Lockwood also plans to offer one early kindergarten classroom this fall and two in the spring semester.
The St. Vincent mobile primary car clinic will again be on campus to serve students and the general public. Novasio said he hopes there eventually will be a brick and mortar clinic on campus for St. Vincent health care services.
An open house for K-5 students is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. on at Lockwood Schools. The date of the open house for grades 6-9 was still being determined last week.
The school bond issue was approved in 2018 after the 2017 Legislature and Gov. Steve Bullock changed state law to allow certain large K-8 school districts to become K-12 districts. School officials and community members have been working nonstop on opening the Lockwood High School ever since 2017. "It's been a marathon," Novasio said.
Lockwood voters put their money where their school is. They can rightfully take pride in the well planned educational facilities that are being constructed and upgraded this year.
There is one downside for students: Starting school after Labor Day next month will mean continuing classes for two full weeks after Memorial Day next spring.