Roger Perry has been the headmaster of Lakehill Preparatory School in Lakewood for 40 years, and this year he’s gearing up for a change he considers to be one of the major highlights of his long career.
The campus is getting a makeover unlike anything it has seen since the building was first constructed in 1949. Lakewood Baptist Church originally built the campus, and Lakehill Prep began using it during the weekdays in 1971 and then Lakehill officially purchased the building in 1988. Aside from a few updates here and there, the school hasn’t changed much since its beginning.
Earlier this month Dallas City Council unanimously approved Lakehill Preparatory School’s zoning request for a planned development district and new facility enhancements. Right now the building is L-shaped, but the new construction will add 16,000-square-feet to make the building a square with a courtyard in the center, as you can see in the renderings above.
“It’ll look a lot like it does now, but obviously there will be more of it and it’ll be newer — more contemporary,” Perry says. “We haven’t done a great deal other than windows in a long time on this campus, as far as the exterior goes.”
The expansion will add classrooms, meeting rooms and some much-needed office space.
“It’s kind of reconfiguring what we have and adding some classrooms and general use spaces, and it’ll have a fancy new art room,” Perry says.
Perry says the school first began considering a remodel about four years ago, and they’ve been working with neighbors since then. The expansion will allow the school to increase its student body from about 400 students to about 500, so most neighbors were concerned about parking and traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“As with any project the unknown can be a little unsettling,” Perry says. “So we had some neighborhood meetings and worked with neighborhood folks to try to find out what their hot topics were, and I think we came to a great resolution.”
District 9 city councilman Mark Clayton seems to agree. He posted on his Facebook page that he “thought it was going to be a complete mess” but was pleasantly surprised with the result.
“I’m really proud of how the neighbors interacted with the school and vice versa,” Clayton wrote. “It really was about compromise on both sides and everyone had to give. I think the end result will be something that is a real positive for the area and it couldn’t have happened without smart, reasonable people looking to do the right thing instead of doing something just right for them.”
The school has no intentions to expand beyond 500 students because that’s what fits Perry’s vision for the school, Perry says.
“Five hundred is as large as it’ll ever be,” he explains. “There’s no plan for this to be a big school. We want to be a small college prep school in East Dallas.”
Perry started working at Lakehill Prep in 1976 as a part-time assistant coach while he also attended classes at the University of North Texas. During his second semester the assistant headmaster left and the school asked if he could take over and continue his graduate school classes in the evening. Then in 1982 he became the headmaster — and he has been the headmaster ever since.
He was with the school when it struggled to find teachers in the ’90s and during the economic recession of 2008, he says. But he loves the job and the students now as much as he did when he started.
“I think I’m a kid at heart and I don’t want to grow up in many ways,” he says. “When I hang out with the students, I can sustain that as long as I can. I have a good time with them. I don’t think that part has changed in 40 years. They have so much life in them and so many opportunities. I continue to try to share with them the doors that are open to them. They’re at a great advantage, so I just try to help them remember that.”
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