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New Gym Pops Up at McLaughlin School

Will Serve Expansion of School to Become Middle/High School

Like a mushroom after a summer rain, a beautiful new gymnasium has popped up this week on the campus of McLaughlin Middle/High School of Excellence.

The building is being constructed using a "tilt-wall" method in which completed solid concrete walls are rapidly erected, rather than a traditional hollow concrete "breeze-block" method, allowing the walls to be erected over a two-day period. Much work remains before the structure will be completed, which is anticipated to happen this summer in time for the 2024-2025 school year.

The expanding campus on South Fourth Street in Lake Wales is being improved to host a new high school in addition to the middle school grades that it has served for many years.

The $15 million project is only one phase of the planned improvements at the school, which will also include a new football stadium on the site of a current track and practise field. The school's 38-acre campus has room to hold a number of new facilities.

The 28,300 square-foot gymnasium will host a variety of athletic programs, including basketball, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling. The Polk School Board previously entered into a joint-use agreement with the City of Lake Wales, which will allow use of the facilities for other public events.

The decision to add a high school to the campus was only reached by the Polk School Board in June of 2022, and implemented immediately. A new grade will be added each year in anticipation of the school's first graduates in 2026.

School staff are especially excited about the plans, which will allow a "continuity of education" with a familiar group of students. The school will offer students a second choice of high schools in Lake Wales

Principal Debra Wright-Hudson organized a charrette-style event last year to seek input from teachers, parents, and students as to shape and identity of the new school.

Unlike most schools in the Lake Wales area, McLaughlin is not a part of the Lake Wales Charter Schools system, but is operated by the Polk County Schools, which is funding the construction.


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