WATSON -- More than a year after officially opening its doors for the first time, life has settled in at Live Oak Junior High.
The $5.5 million renovation project that turned the former Live Oak High School — unused and collecting dust since December 2012 — into a new junior high school is over, with the finishing touches completed over the summer.
The school — which last year had a larger-than-normal eighth grade class that has since trickled down the road to the high school — is now hovering around a more-manageable 700 students, all instructed by 36 teachers as well as 15 or so other employees and administrators.
Sitting in his office with windows overlooking the school’s still-fresh brick façade, archways and wrought iron fencing one fall morning, LOJH Principal Daniel Desselle seemed pleased with how smoothly things have run since the junior high opened for the 2017-18 school year.
“Last year, it was a new school for everybody — teachers and students alike,” he said. “So this year coming in, teachers knew what to expect and half the students knew what to expect. And so far, the [seventh graders] that we’ve had move in have been doing a good job learning about the expectations.”
But just because the construction on campus was complete didn’t mean the end of new things to come at Live Oak Junior High.
From a technological perspective, things were just getting warmed up.
This school year saw Live Oak Junior High purchase five carts of Dell Latitude 3180 computers for student and teacher use.
Two of the carts — or 60 computers — were designated for the school’s focus classes, which instruct seventh and eighth graders on study strategies, organizational skills, and computer use.
The other three carts — or 90 computers — were split among the school’s three science teachers, a much-needed commodity considering the district’s decision to move toward Discovery Education’s Science Techbook for junior high schoolers, Desselle said.
“We don’t have science textbooks like we did when we were in school,” he joked.
With the five carts that were purchased last year, the school now has 300 laptops that can “go anywhere” on the school’s totally wireless campus.
But it doesn’t stop there — the school opened its new computer lab in early October, replete with brand-new tables, desks, chairs and 30 Dell Latitude 3390 computers.
The lab is currently being used to bolster students’ skills for taking the LEAP test in a program that “is based on a student’s individual skills and builds lessons for them based on their deficiencies,” Desselle said.
“We’re continuing to expand,” he said.
In addition to the technological advances, the school has also expanded its flexible seating to more than half a dozen classes, with some using high-top cafe-style tables, u-shaped tables, couches and recliners, and easily movable desks for students to sit in.
“There are different issues that can pop up [with flexible seating] versus people sitting in traditional rows, but it has benefits,” Desselle said. “You have kids who would have a difficult time in the traditional classroom setting, but in this, they can move a little bit more without being a distraction to anyone else. It’s also conducive to group work.
“As long as the kid is engaged and participating and doing what they need to do, I’m fine with wherever they want to sit, as long as they’re doing their work.”