Originally published in the 10/12/19 print edition of the Yellowstone County News.
LOCKWOOD — The first freshman class of the new Lockwood High School could very likely begin next year for the 2019-20 school year – a year before the new high school is built.
In order to keep Lockwood students from having to transition from one school to another for two years in a row, the Lockwood School Board is exploring the possibility of allowing this year’s Lockwood eighth graders to continue attending Lockwood next year as high school freshmen. School administrators and board members will meet next week with the parents of eighth graders to hear their feedback and concerns and to gauge interest, before making a decision.
According to Superintendent Tobin Novasio, there are currently 123 eighth graders; based upon that figure they would estimate that they would have at least 100 freshman students next year. Among the issues the board must weigh is how many students will have to be interested in remaining at Lockwood in order to make the idea feasible. Novasio said that his “feel” about the situation is that they would have more students rather than fewer.
There are a number of good financial reasons for the school to retain their freshman students next year, such as not having to pay tuition to School District 2, reduced busing costs and being able to get the state ANB (students belonging) funding, but said Novasio his primary concern is saving the students from having to transition from one school to another, twice. It’s hard on students to have to do that, he said — harder for some than others. Parents of “special needs” students have already raised concerns to him.
One of the board’s concerns was where to house a freshman class at minimal expense, an issue that seemed to be resolved by the firm designing the new high school, Collaborative Design. Jeff Kanning of Collaborative Design suggested that they could provide a place for freshman students at very little extra cost, by designing and building the maintenance building and the proposed CTE/vo ag building first. Planned to be easily-constructed metal buildings, they could readily provide classrooms and a lunch room, with very little conversion needed later to serve their ultimate purpose. The maintenance building would have a huge room that could serve as a temporary meeting room and a lunch room, as well as being able to provide temporary offices for administrators, which would allow them to tear down the current administration building earlier in their schedule, which would also make the construction process smoother.
The two buildings will be located at the far end of the campus, behind the proposed new school building. The location would be better as far as keeping the students away from construction activity – better than anywhere they could locate temporary structures, as well as being much less expensive.
The buildings would be accessed by the road that circumvents the elementary school – a road that would have to be paved, but paving it, anyway, is in the plans, according to Novasio.
There was discussion about how to insure the safety of elementary school students from any increased traffic, about how meals would be brought to freshman students, correlating schedules with middle school schedules, and what teachers would have to be hired and what courses would be available to the freshman students.
Novasio said that they would be hiring five or six new teachers and could perhaps call upon existing Lockwood teachers to teach some of the courses. They would offer the basic freshman classes to the students, as well as perhaps six electives. They believe that they could provide all sports except for soccer and softball, primarily because they would not have enough students to fill teams.
Details will be worked out if their meeting with the parents and students indicate significant support.
Novasio noted that there are a lot of things that must be done in launching a new high school, far beyond construction — things that one does not readily think about as necessary to start a new high school – one of which is writing the policies and making all the many decisions that go into that process.