LSS clears ground for new Lakeland middle school

Future site of the new Lakeland Middle Preparatory School.
That’s a whole lot of dirt, tree roots and tire tracks right now, but Lakeland’s school visionaries can already imagine the new Lakeland Middle Preparatory School rising up at its new location as the site work progresses.

Despite a whopping 16 inches of rain in March, Lakeland’s school district has made progress clearing the site for its new middle school.

The district also is on track to put out construction bids on April 24 with an opening date of May 19. Construction is expected to start around May 31.

At Monday night’s work session, the school board heard an update from Dr. James B. Mitchell Jr., founding partner at the district’s consulting company, Southern Educational Strategies.

Despite weather challenges, the contractor has managed to clear all trees and brush from the site for Phase 1 of construction, other than the access road from the school to Old Brownsville Road, Mitchell said. That work is pending clarification on some easements and property ownership. The contractor is now beginning to strip topsoil and level out the site’s low and high patches of ground.

“I’m very pleased with the progress the contractor is making,” Mitchell said.

Doug Burris, senior vice president and partner at Renaissance Group, also provided brief videos from his company’s drone, which soared about 400 feet over the entire construction site, showing the extent of work to date.

In other business, Lakeland School System (LSS) Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell advised the board that he is reviewing the final draft of a new interlocal agreement (ILA) with Arlington Community Schools (ACS).

The agreement spells out how Arlington schools will continue educating and then transitioning Lakeland’s older students as LSS expands. ACS is expected to vote on the ILA at its Wednesday meeting.

“It has been a very collegial and positive experience negotiating it,” Horrell said. “Everyone is kind of working toward the same goal, and there’s a lot of excitement I feel on both the Lakeland side and the Arlington side, with it being our goal to have a long-term, secure solution for our high school students. And we feel like this contract accomplishes that.”

He expects to present the ILA for a vote at the April 11 school board business meeting.

At next week’s meeting, the board also will discuss modest increases in employee healthcare costs, the district’s budget, funding changes from the state, details of the board’s self-evaluation process, and hiring of new legal counsel for the district.

With new counsel, the board anticipates legal costs of $1,200 per meeting for two monthly meetings, and a cap of $7,200 per month for all legal work through the end of December. The board and law firm will then evaluate the usage and renegotiate the terms.