LAPEER (WJRT) -
(05/28/14) - In just a few weeks, Lapeer West High School will cease to exist.
Next fall, all high school students will attend what is now called Lapeer East.
For more than 40 years, students have gone to class at Lapeer West, but declining enrollment and smaller budgets mean it's time for a change.
"I definitely will be sad because I've been here for three years. It will be weird to finish up my senior year somewhere else," said Amy Jung, Lapeer West junior.
"This is like a family kind of a thing, but it's all going to be like a new experience," said Mackenzie Martin, Lapeer West junior.
When classes end in June, the building will no longer be used as a high school, but will be converted to what will be called the Center for Innovation.
"We've actually brought the colleges to our campus," said Matt Wandrie, Lapeer Community Schools superintendent.
Four colleges will operate branches there and the athletic complex will be expanded and improved.
"The west campus, both the building and the surrounding grounds are a cornerstone of the overall plan," Wandrie said.
School workers have their work cut out for them.
"The next three or four months is going to be an extremely busy time for us," Wandrie said.
Lapeer East will be renamed Lapeer High School and it will be updated to handle 700 more students.
"Updated cafeteria, updated office space, band and choir room upgrades and storage facilities there," Wandrie said.
The overall size of the district has been shrinking over the past several years, and there will be some layoffs with this consolidation plan, but the superintendent declined to say how many could be coming.
"We've been able to absorb a majority of those needed reductions through retirements and resignations," Wandrie said.
The consolidation also means two football teams will become one.
"I was sour about it, you know. We're going to miss the rivalry. That's something that made our town special is playing against the Crosstown Rival," said Jonathan Currie, Lapeer West junior.
"It's a new chapter. We're going to be over there next year. It's going to be sad, but we're ready to make the move," said Hunter Andrews, Lapeer West junior.
Musicians from the two schools have already formed some friendships.
"All of our concert and jazz bands have played together. It's kind of interesting. It's a lot of fun," said Rachel Little, Lapeer West junior.
There is one sore point. There will no longer be Lapeer West Panthers and Lapeer East Eagles. The consolidated school will be known as Lapeer Lightning.
"I think we could have a better mascot. I guess it's going to be a lightning bolt for a mascot," Jung said.