Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan walked into the new academic building at Lamar High School on Thursday and stopped for a moment to take it all in.
Standing in the grand hall, Lathan’s eyes widened as she scanned the two-story, glass-paned entry way and massive, bright blue staircase leading to upper floors.
“This is wonderful,” Lathan said, smiling as she greeted Lamar Principal Rita Graves.
With just a couple days to go before the new school year, Lathan stopped by Lamar and Northside high schools to get a sneak peek of their new spaces, built as part of the 2012 Bond Program and set to open to students on Monday.
Lamar’s $122 million project features a state-of-the-art school that preserves the original building’s architecture. The new academic building features a large covered transit center, a black box theater and band-instruction area, a natatorium, and a large banquet and food preparation space for the school’s culinary arts program.
The $66 million Northside project features two new additions for culinary and fine arts, along with renovations designed to modernize classrooms and labs while preserving the original building’s historic architectural façade. Exterior windows also were replaced and additional windows were installed to bring in more natural light.
While at Lamar, Lathan greeted students and parents, thanked school staff, and toured the school’s academic “neighborhoods” — large, flexible academic areas that facilitate the school’s interdisciplinary and project-based approach to educating students.
“This gives us the opportunity to give students a small school feel, but also give them the benefits of a large, comprehensive classroom,” Graves said as she led Lathan through the neighborhoods.
At Northside, Lathan was greeted by an impromptu performance from school’s Pantherettes Dance Team. After stopping to pose for photos, Lathan joined Principal Cecilia Gonzales and Assistant Principal Victor Okoli for a tour of the school, stopping occasionally to hug teachers setting up classrooms.
“Oh, my goodness — I love it,” Lathan said as she walked down a bright hallway adorned with bold colors and word art.
Northside students have expressed similar sentiments when seeing the new school for the first time.
“We had fish camp today, and we had over 200 ninth-graders here getting their schedules and touring the building,” Gonzales said. “They’re really excited.”