Southwest High School addition project underway

When completed in 2016, construction will add space for 450 students

Southwest High School Principal Bill Smith hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the school's new addition Thursday. Credit: Dylan Thomas
Southwest High School Principal Bill Smith hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the school's new addition Thursday. Credit: Dylan Thomas

LINDEN HILLS — Southwest High School hosted an official groundbreaking today for an addition that will add 20 classrooms and space for about 450 students.

Demolition work actually began over a month ago, but city and district officials joined Principal Bill Smith to mark the beginning of the $40-million project. The school, opened in 1940, has a current capacity of about 1,700 students, but in about four to five years enrollment is expected to grow to 2,150, Smith said.

He called the project “a huge investment in our future, in our city and in our children.”

The Southwest High School addition was just one of several school building renovations included in a five-year, $222-million dollar plan to accommodate growing enrollment approved by the School Board in December 2013. At the time, the district was projecting enrollment in the district to grow by about 10 percent, or 3,400 students, by 2017, and the enrollment plan was expected to add 4,800 classroom seats.

The expected completion date for the first phase of construction is August. Work on the rest of the addition concludes in early 2016, and the school is planning a grand opening celebration at the start of the 2016–2017 school year, Smith said.

Mave Lazor, a Southwest senior and editor of The Anchor student newspaper, said the construction work made navigating the school building a little more difficult for students. A hallway connecting the east and west wings of the building, known to students as “the link,” has been replaced by a covered walkway that snakes around campus, and there’s “a lot of dust” in the air from demolition work, Lazor said.

Naomi Klaila, a junior, said students were “in shock” a project that once seemed so far off was finally underway. They’re also eager for some relief from overcrowded hallways and classrooms, Klaila added.

“Kids are eating in the halls because the cafeteria is so crowded,” she said.

Follow the project’s progress on the Southwest High School website.

A rendering of the new addition. Submitted image

Plans for the school’s new commons area. Submitted image