By Kevin Kelley
With those words, Joe Kraft began reflecting on the lengthy process that led to the construction of the new Westlake High School, which was formally dedicated Saturday morning. Kraft served as co-director of the committee that campaigned to pass the $84 million bond issue that funded the Westlake City Schools’ the new high school and middle school.
After thanking the many people who worked years on the project, and Westlake taxpayers, who are paying for the new building, Kraft recalled the difficulties encountered. Some people, he recalled, said the district should stick with the old high school.
“Many said you couldn’t do it,” he recalled. “We’re in the middle of a global financial crisis. Again, you moved forward. Unless you step forward, you’re always going to be in the same place.”
Kraft, like several other speakers, thanked the 20/20 Vision Committee that studied the district’s facility needs in 2007 and 2008 at the start of the process.
Westlake High senior Jack Martello, representing the students, acknowledged that the school district appeared to be in a state of disarray the past two years because of constant construction work.
Thanks to hard work and the dedication of Westlake citizens, the community now has an epic high school, Martello said.
The new building represents the goals of the district – to strive for excellence, he said.
“With this new school comes new goals, new relationships, but most importantly, a new motto: We are Westlake.”
Westlake High Principal Tim Freeman noted that the gymnasium in which the dedication ceremony was taking place was on the spot where students parked their cars two years ago. He noted that the building’s architects welcomed input from the district’s educators.
Board of Education Vice President Carol Winter said the activities that make up homecoming weekend, from the parade to the game, reminded her why she loves being from Westlake and serving on the board.
The board vice president recounted the process by which the new facilities were justified, planned and built. She said students’ statements about how maintenance problems at the old high school, where the walls had separated from the building, causing snow and cold air to enter the classroom, persuaded her to support the capital project.
Winter said the Westlake community said “yes to warm and safe and dry schools that support the type of learning (students are) expected to do now, which is very different from the learning they were expected to do in 1960 when the old high school was built.”
Superintendent Dan Keenan said the district’s decision to redesign and reinforce the building’s rotunda, which put more stress on the construction schedule during the final months, was the right decision.
Keenan described the new building as beautiful, but said its true beauty will be the role that it plays in the lives of the community’s young people.
“The purpose of this building is to foster leadership in others,” the superintendent said. “It’s to teach collaboration. It’s to teach how to understand multiple perspectives. It’s to teach how to understand priorities and how to problem-solve to prepare for the future.” The process that brought about the building, Keenan said, involved all those lessons.
Following the dedication, the public toured the building. Members of the school’s National Honor Society served as docents, describing features of the new school.
The open house was the public’s first chance to see the Red Brick Community Room, located just off the high school’s rotunda. The main doorway of the room, which will host art exhibits, consists of an arch made from bricks preserved from the community’s first schoolhouse, which stood on Dover Center Road from 1909 to 2010.