Lawton Public Schools has settled on specific uses for its newest building, after giving it a new name.
New Horizons Learning Center is the former Armed Services YMCA building, a structure located on the north side of Elmer Thomas Park just east of Central Middle School. The district took ownership of the building in late February under a “building swap” with the City of Lawton. In simple terms, the city deeded ownership of the Armed Services Y to Lawton Public Schools, in exchange for Lawton Public Schools deeding ownership of the historic Lawton High School/Central Junior High to the City of Lawton (which has been using the building as Lawton City Hall for 10 years).
In early March, Hime said the district was exploring plans to use the building to house two district programs: Pre-K classes for the district’s youngest students and the Transitional Program for students getting ready to graduate high school. That decision now is final: both programs will be housed in the building. At the time, Hime said the building was attractive for those uses because it has 15 usable classrooms (with space available for development of more), cafeteria and gymnasium.
Hime said district officials plan to have the building functional by the start of the 2023-2024 school year.
He said rooms on the west side of the building are ready for Pre-K students when school begins in August, but rooms on the building’s east side, intended for the Transitional Program, “will take some rebuilding.” He said while Pre-K is planned for the west side, space will be available for some Transitional Program students. District officials expect the east side renovation to take another year.
The building will be ready for Pre-K students in August, relieving Carriage Hills, Lincoln, Pioneer Park, Sullivan Village and Whittier elementary schools of the need to house those students in classrooms in their buildings. Hime said those schools were chosen because of their proximity to New Horizons. The decision as a whole reflects the increase in student population that Lawton Public Schools expects to see because of economic development opportunities under way in Lawton and the U.S. Army’s plans to expand Fort Sill’s missions and increase personnel.
“We’re trying to create space with the growth that is coming,” he said, adding officials will continue to explore other plans to handle expected growth.
Plans for Transition Program students will help those students learn skills that will lead to employment after graduation, perhaps within their home district. Hime said some training will focus on custodial and cafeteria jobs.
“We’re always looking for people with those job skills,” he said, of the potential the program could be training new district employees.
Hime said the name New Horizons reflects the facility’s mission.
“It’s where kids start school and kids finish school,” he said.