Edward W. Bok Academy students had a true treat waiting for them at the start of the school year: A brand new academic building.
Built with entirely donated funds, the project was a true community collaboration resulting in new state-of-the-art classrooms, or studios as they are called on the Bok South campus. Included is a huge new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) laboratory.
Six of the eight studios are used for science classrooms, and the other two for mathematics instructions at the Lake Wales Charter Schools system middle school which has earned an A grade from the state every year since it opened.
Construction on the new classroom building started early in the prior school year, adding further disruption to the campus which sustained heavy damage during Hurricane Irma.
It's not the only new building that will eventually be part of the campus. In fact, construction equipment and workers basically just moved a few feet away this school year, as a brand new administration and classroom building is now in the early stages of going up. That building was torn down after it was determined the storm damage was too severe to try and rehabilitate it.
While the most director benefactors are students at Bok, youngsters from all Lake Wales schools, including McLaughlin and Spook Hill Elementary, will have access to the newly opened laboratory facilities from time to time, according to Bok principal Damien Moses.
“What this allows us to do is actually set up things indoors, being able to give kids more hands-on activities. It's a huge space,” Moses noted. “And attached to it is an outdoor lab as well. We have everything we need, we can do all kinds of different things. This allows us to impact more students in a larger setting.”
Last year's construction alone would have been disruption enough but doubled up with Irma, it meant classes were meeting where ever they could, including the South Lake Wales Church of God where students had to be bused across U.S. Highway 27.
“We just can't wait to get back to a little normalcy,” Moses said. “The students and the staff have been amazing. They've shown an amazing grit and perseverance. Looking at academic performances and everything else, even through all that, we didn't skip a beat. It speaks volumes for everyone.”
He added that the message and spirit among the teaching staff spilled over to the youngsters.
“One the things we said with the teachers is the kids are great, so we should be as well.”