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Lakeland welcomes public to tour new $20M middle school

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Lakeland’s new $20-million middle school went from a spring 2016 groundbreaking to a ribbon cutting in one breathtaking year. On Sunday, officials welcomed an estimated 300 or more citizens into the pristine brick and stone-clad building.

The 2017-18 school year begins on Monday, Aug. 7, openings its doors to about 600 students in grades 5-8.

“It’s really the most exciting day in the history of our school system,” said Dr. Ted Horrell, district superintendent of education. The district opened as its own municipal school district just three and one-half years ago, and now it has completed its first major expansion.

“This is a school that was built for you, but it is also a school that was built by you, and it is a school that was built with you,” he said. “… We’re really grateful to everyone here.”

Interspersed with frequent bursts of applause from the audience, Horrell lauded the contributions of current and former members of the school board and city board, as well as Mayor Wyatt Bunker, for working cooperatively to make the school district and the new middle school come true.

Other community leaders and supporters praised in the opening ceremony were Lakeland Middle Preparatory School principal Matt Adler, school board attorneys, district staff, Lakeland Elementary Principal Joretha Lockhart, teachers and staff, the Lakeland Education Foundation, City Manager Jim Atkinson, Lakeland’s Finance Director Jessica Millspaugh, plant managers for both schools, two Lakeland architectural and engineering companies (Renaissance Group and A2H), Southern Educational Strategies, Chris Woods Construction and the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, among others. Community volunteers who helped to put the finishing touches on the school in time for the opening ceremonies also received thanks.

Adler thanked the superintendent and the school board for allowing him to be LMPS’s founding principal. “I am honored and I am privileged to have this opportunity to serve our Lakeland families as we begin our own traditions at Lakeland Middle Preparatory School.”

Opening ceremonies also included the presentation of an $8,621 check from the Lakeland Education Foundation to buy bleachers, scorer tables and seats. Guests were also reminded of an LEF fundraiser that lets them can buy a custom-engraved brick paver that will be placed in the flagpole area in front of the school. (See the bottom of this story for details.)

A deep portico along much of the building’s front shaded some of the crowd from the sun, but all streamed quickly into the school’s cool interior when the speeches were done. Once inside, guests saw a two-story lobby in blue, gray and white with vaulted ceilings and big windows. To the left is a vast library with plenty of shelves to hold more books as the school grows. To the right is the main office. Classrooms, labs, a large cafeteria/auditorium and other spaces filled the remaining spaces upstairs and down.

People dispersed in all directions to explore the building, pick up a free glass of lemonade and snap selfies.

School leaders asked Susan Kee to bring her son Hayden, who will be entering the sixth grade, to the ribbon cutting because he’s been a model student. He helped Boy Scouts from Lakeland Troop 455 with the raising of the state and U.S. flags. The flags were provided by Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett).

Kee said she was happy to get to see the new school. “It’s awesome. I love it! I’m definitely looking forward to the technology use for the kids.”

She praised the staff at Lakeland Elementary School and added, “So we know the teachers selected for this school will be just as great.”

She acknowledged that the Arlington school district provides a good education, but she said it will be nice to avoid the crowded hallways there. (The Arlington Community Schools district previously had an agreement with Lakeland School System district to educate its children in grades 6-12 because the original LSS district only had one facility, an elementary school.)

The opening of LMPS also takes fifth-graders from Lakeland Elementary, giving students there a little more room too.

“We’re very excited,” Kee said. “Mr. Adler has been wonderful in communications.”

She was impressed that Adler, the LMPS principal, already knew her son by name when her husband was introducing himself.

Another trio of guests at the ribbon cutting said they were there to support their son too, but he’s the principal. Adler’s mother, father and sister were there to cheer him on. They have visited several times from Michigan and have seen the school rise up from nothing.

“We saw it from the dirt up,” said his mother, Sharon Adler. “He was so proud of it, and we are so proud of him.”

His father, David, and sister, Suzanne, were glad to come and support him on the ribbon-cutting day too.

Samantha Tejerero, a rising seventh-grader, is looking forward to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies at LMPS. She was also present Sunday as a member of the choir, singing the National Anthem for the ribbon cutting.

Her father, Zaldy Tejerero, said, “I like the facility. It’s beautiful. I like this for our kids. And the community is so friendly.”

Eighth-grader Grace Bailey, a member of the new school’s pom team and choir was quiet when questioned, just saying that she’s looking forward to the year. But her mother, Emily, said, “She’s stoked!”

The mother said she and her husband, Chad, are excited their child will get to stay in Lakeland for the crucial middle school years. “It’s fabulous for them to stay closer to home,” she said.

She also noted that when the family goes out for a quick bite of supper after school, it will now be much easier for them to do so in Lakeland and keep their restaurant dollars and tax dollars local.

For those who wish to help support the new school, the Lakeland Education Foundation, a nonprofit education organization, works to raises funds for Lakeland School System and its teachers. Community members are invited to join in the latest fundraiser and leave their mark at Lakeland Middle Preparatory School. LEF is selling personalized bricks that will be part of the school’s “Path to Excellence in Education” for years to come.

The first 100 bricks (4×8 inches) will be sold for $100 each. Then the price will increase to $125 per brick. Limited space is available. For details or to order, visit bricksrus.com/order/lef/index.php.


CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.

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