IN- DEPTH: Building LASA’s Future


Edith Holmsten and Ava De Leon

In 2019, 12 years after LASA became its own school, talks of moving locations to accommodate the growing student population were heating up. Then COVID-19 hit. But the construction of the school continued, and after many months of planning, moving, and email blasts filled with information about the new campus, students, teachers, and staff were finally able to settle into LASA’s new home on the first day of school this year. 

Construction of the school started on June 7, 2021, a mere two and a half months before the 2021 school year began. Teachers were only allowed to begin setting up their classrooms on Aug. 14, three days before school started. Over the course of the next few weeks, students and faculty experienced a garden variety of issues with the newly renovated school. From water problems to faulty electricity, the LASA community has had to manage all these issues along with the stress and anxiety that comes with starting school again during a pandemic. However, while there has been some controversy over the new building, there are also many new amenities that were previously unseen by LASA students and staff, including an abundance of courtyards, a cafeteria, and a new school layout. Vice Principal San Czaplinski knew immediately what it could have in store. 

“My first impression was that it has so much potential,” Czaplinski said. “The spaces here have so much potential, and I love the character of the old building. Just going into teachers’ classrooms, especially the teachers that have the windows that are facing Aruthur Stiles [Road].”

But according to junior and LASA ambassador Christina Hwang, many of the school’s problems affected classroom learning. In the first few weeks of school, the electricity wasn’t working, water leaked from the ceilings, and the temperature of each classroom changed dramatically day-to-day.

“We had a huge water pressure issue a couple of days back,” Hwang said. “Because the building is so old and it’s been abandoned for a long time, just maintaining it is still a huge issue. I definitely think for a better learning environment, [it could be] better in terms of just AC electricity and water.”

Along with troubleshooting the temperature problems in their rooms, teachers have also had to deal with organizing their classrooms after a short move-in period to teaching a full class of students. English teacher Brad Sharp said some teachers are not quite settled in yet and reflected on how difficult the moving process was from Lyndon Baines Johnson Early College High School (LBJ).

“Many teachers are missing items still,” Sharp said. “I don’t think we will be truly settled until the end of the year just based on getting everything set up in a new space, whereas LASA had been at LBJ for almost 20 years. Trying to recreate that in a short time frame is going to be difficult, but getting things from one location to another all of five miles away is not as smooth as people will have you believe.”

During the first few days of school, parents and students had to navigate through the traffic of pick-up and drop-off lines that formed along the school’s perimeter as student drivers tried to get home. Many juniors and seniors opted to drive themselves to school, but with the limited availability of parking, administrators had to find a way to organize a parking situation. Permits were administered to all seniors who wanted one, but some juniors were unable to acquire a permit this semester. Czaplinski said she was able to determine an accurate number of available spaces and how difficult it was to accommodate the construction and parking spots.

“Salinas and I worked on parking over the summer,” Czaplinski said. “There were multiple days when we drove over here and literally drove around each lot and were trying to count all the spaces, but construction was even more intense at that time, so there were dirt piles and a lot of the parking lot dumpsters that were brought on to the site for the construction workers. So, it’s been a challenge.”

Junior student council president Sam Church has been driving himself to school and thought that the administrators did a good job of counting parking spots. He said that he was worried about the parking situation previously, but he was pleased with how it turned out. 

“I drive myself and carpool with one of my friends, and I think they’ve actually done a great job with parking,” Church said. “I was a little bit worried before the year started that we would not be able to get a spot, or we would have to parallel park everyday, but they’ve measured the numbers perfectly so that there’s always enough room for everyone, and you can always find a spot.”

According to Hwang, one of the more positive characteristics of the new campus has been the numerous courtyards scattered throughout the grounds. Students have been taking advantage of the courtyards to eat lunch or to just sit outside in nature.

“I really like the amount of courtyards especially because we have more greenery, [and] we have more windows,” Hwang said. “At our old campus, we were pretty window-less and sunlight-less. It’s really nice to see there’s more greenery, especially because we’re always in classrooms, so being able to look at a window and see a tree is really nice.”

Sharp also said the courtyards are a nice change of pace from the old campus. He said he hopes that the areas will be beneficial towards both student and staff mental health.

“Having taught at LBJ long enough to have both a classroom that had natural light and a classroom that did not have natural light, I think it’s healthier to not be surrounded by fluorescent lights all the time,” Sharp said. “And if the day allows it, it is good to go and conduct class in the courtyard if you can. However, being mindful that there are other classes being conducted is going to be key.”

Another thing that students like Church have been enjoying is the cafeteria. At the previous campus, LASA students did not utilize the cafeteria as much, and instead chose to eat in the hallways and outside, according to Church.

“My favorite thing is just the cafeteria,” Church said. “I know that’s weird, but at the old LBJ, we just had one on the first floor that we didn’t really have access to as much, but here we have our own space we can eat in.”

While there are both positives and negatives about the new campus, both Church and Hwang agreed that there is more to be done in terms of making the campus a new home for students and staff. Hwang said the campus did not have many LASA memorandums, which she hopes will change in the future.

“Going forward, I think in general, I hope that we can make the school campus, our own,” Hwang said. “For the most part for LASA pride and spirit, we still have a lot of the old relics of Johnston High. It still doesn’t really feel like our campus. It just feels like we don’t really have anything on the walls or in the campus grounds. It really feels like we’re taking class in a random building.”

Church said he would like to see new LASA traditions form at the new school. He said he hopes that the new campus will allow for students and teachers to come up with creative ideas to make the school feel more spirited.

“I really like that we have the chance to create our new traditions for what the new LASA is going to be like,” Church said. “We’ve pretty much become a new school, so we get to restart what we think would be a good idea to create a tradition around.”

The new campus has been called a fixer upper by many students and staff such as Czaplinski, but the general consensus is that it has provided new opportunities for LASA to grow and prosper. Sharp shared his final thoughts on the school.

“I’m happy we finally have our own campus,” Sharp said. “It’s been a long time coming.”