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New Firestone/Litchfield CLC nearing completion

4/28/2016 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The large cafeteria space will be shared by Firestone High and Litchfield Middle schools but separated by a moveable wall. Shown above is the 11,000-square-foot space without the wall.
Lockers have been installed in the hallways of the new Litchfield Middle School building, as pictured above.
Photos: Kathleen Folkerth

WEST AKRON — Akron Public Schools (APS) officials said the new Firestone High School and Litchfield Middle School buildings are on track to be ready for the 2016-17 school year.

APS Facilities Director Paul Flesher said during an April 21 tour for district officials that construction on the district’s largest community learning center (CLC) is expected to be complete by early July. Once a certificate of occupancy is issued by the city, the district will begin moving into the building, he added. The buildings will be ready for the first day of school, which is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 30, according to the APS website.

On the tour were Superintendent David James, APS Board of Education members the Rev. Curtis Walker Sr., Lisa Mansfield, Debbie Walsh and Tim Miller, Akron City Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8) and City of Akron Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson.

In both buildings, tour-goers saw that many of the classrooms are nearly finished. John Peterson, project manager with GPD Group, said furniture was expected to arrive this week.

The buildings are connected but the only common area is the huge cafeteria, which will be divided by a moveable wall for daytime school use. The wall can be removed to create an 11,000 square-foot space that can be used for large school or community functions, Peterson said. The Litchfield side includes a stage.

The cafeteria also has a community kitchen accessible from both sides. The school, as part of the extensive CLC project, is a partnership between the city and the district, and the buildings may be used for community functions.

Gymnasiums in both schools are close to being done. In Litchfield, the gym will seat around 500 people, and it can be divided so two classes can use it at one time.

The courtyard shown above is outside the Litchfield building. The Firestone High School building also features a courtyard.
TThe Firestone High School lobby outside the auditorium looks onto a staircase located at the school’s entrance.
Firestone’s new gym will seat around 2,200 people. On one end will be a moveable wall with the new wrestling room behind it. The other end, the public entrance, will include a concessions area.

Peterson said one of the standout features of the Firestone building is the new planetarium. The state-of-the-art classroom features a 24-foot diameter curved screen on the ceiling. Digital projectors will be installed that will allow instructors to exhibit a variety of earth science programs.

“It’s going to be amazing,” he said.

He added that Challenger space shuttle astronaut and FHS alumna Judith Resnik will be honored in the new building. Displays on Resnik in the current FHS learning resource center (LRC) will be put in the new LRC.

She also will be part of the school’s Wall of Fame, which will be reinstalled from the current school to the wall along the new FHS auditorium.

Like the current auditorium, the new one will be named the Linda B. Kersker Auditorium in memory of the late APS Board of Education member and Akron Municipal Court judge, who was a member of the school’s first graduating class.

The auditorium will include a little more than 700 seats, Peterson said, which is a little less than the current theater. Two balconies — accessible from the second and third floors of the building — will each feature two rows of seating. Workers last week were sealing the concrete floors on the ground level.

The auditorium is part of a wing designated for Akron School for the Arts programs in dance, art, music and theater. The wing also includes the LRC, which will be one of the last areas finished in the building. It is located along the Castle Boulevard side of the building and is currently open to allow construction materials and equipment into the building.

While many of the classrooms are nearly ready, the lobbies in both schools are still awaiting the finishing touches. Both have been constructed to allow visitors entrance from the first set of doors into the offices to allow for better security, district officials said.

In Litchfield, the entrance will be on the Fairfax Road side. Once inside the building, visitors will see display cases and a nook that will hold the bust of school namesake Paul Litchfield.

In Firestone, the three-story lobby includes a staircase. The auditorium, planetarium and gym entrance are all located beyond that area.

Flesher said once the current FHS building is vacated, abatement will begin. That should conclude by the end of 2016. The old building will be torn down in early 2017 and work will then begin on the new athletic fields, which should be complete that fall, he added.

Because of the amount of work that will be required to set up the new buildings once occupancy is allowed, it’s likely FHS students and their parents will not see the building until closer to the beginning of school, Flesher said. The district will likely hold a community open house and dedication in the fall, he added.

Alumni who wish to see the old FHS building will have the opportunity at a walk-through tentatively planned for June 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. In addition, the FHS Class of 1966 will get to have a tour during their reunion planned in June.

Currently, Litchfield students are attending classes in the old Perkins Middle School building located on Mull Avenue. Flesher said the district currently has no plans for that building once Litchfield moves out.

Lockers have been installed in the hallways of the new Litchfield Middle School building, as pictured above.
Dressing rooms for performers are located off the auditorium in the new Firestone building.

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