Through its continuing search to find methods for upgrading education in Caddo Parish, the school board and administrative staff in 1949 engaged George Peabody University to conduct a comprehensive survey to examine all phases of education in the parish school system and to make recommendations which the board could implement to better meet the needs of the school community.
The Peabody Survey Team reported its findings to the board and superintendent in 1950, and long range projections of demographic studies made indicated the need for secondary school to serve the southwestern of the city and parish within the next fifteen years.
Again in 1967, the administrative staff and board called upon the Peabody group to determine to what degree the staff had implemented its 1950 recommendations successfully and to make further recommendations. Demographic projections made by the 1950 survey team had been borne out, and once more the group recommended a secondary school for the southwestern part of the city and parish.
The board and professional staff in the interim between the two surveys had become convinced of the need for such a school by the burgeoning growth of population in the area due to the influx of new and varied industry including Western Electric, Ford Battery, General Electric and others. Another factor influencing the need for such a school was a social change that was sweeping the area as well as the nation. Federal court orders called for more widespread integration and a fusing of the races could be effected by closing Walnut Hill High School and transporting youngsters there to the new plant.
The survey group formally presented its recommendations to the board in 1968. The board in turn appointed a fifty man bi-racial committee to study these recommendations and determine their educational soundness and the feasibility of their implementation. Among those recommendations was the proposal of long range expenditures of $20,000,000 ($10,000,000 in bonds and $10,000,000 in four mill tax). This expenditure provided for the construction of a secondary school for the southeast Shreveport and adjacent suburban and rural areas.
The Citizens' committee presented a report in support of the Peabody findings to the board which in turn accepted the Citizens' committee report favorably. Therefore an election was called, and the taxpayers of the parish gave the bond and tax mileage their approval.
Negotiations for a building site were begun almost immediately, and the recommendation for a high school became a reality. A sixty acre tract just north of Reisor Road and facing east on Walker Road was acquired from the Walker Estate at a cost of $237,200.
Neild, Somdal, Smitherman, Sorensen and Sherman, architects, were awarded the contract to execute the building design for "Project 63" as the school would be designated until an appropriate name could be selected. Architectural design called for a 168,073 square foot plant at a cost of $3,271,425. Equipment costs of $392,571 brought the cost of the project to $3,663,996, excluding cost of the land tract. Florsheim Builders were awarded the major building contract.
The design called for an air-conditioned plant at upper and lower levels. Beautifully landscaped, the appearance of the courtyard is reminiscent of a well planned formal garden with geometrically shaped areas for plantings of evergreen shrubs and trees and beds for flowering plants. Walkways from four directions converge in a covered pavilion with a sitting area for students.
The administrative wing on the lower floor flanks the courtyard on the east and contains a general office, records room, conference rooms, first aid rooms, book storage room, counselors and administrators' offices, workroom teachers' lounge and reception area.
Across the courtyard facing the office area from the west is the library which is completely carpeted and which presently houses some twenty thousand volumes. A unique feature of the library is the faculty study with its collections of professional materials.
The school is completely departmentalized with clusters of eight or more classrooms opening into one hall. Each cluster contains conference and media centers for the department. The design was planned with the instructional program foremost in mind and is functional providing for flexibility in the teaching, learning process with carrel areas for independent study for those students who are qualified and who elect this program under the supervision of the entire faculty of the department involved. Facilities for team teaching and demonstration lessons are also provided in each department. An additional advantage, which the physical departmentalization of the plant affords, is the lack of hall congestion. Only students enrolled in courses offered by each department come to this area. The noise factor involved in students moving from one classroom to another is also significantly reduced. Student lockers are centralized away from instructional areas.
Special areas including fine arts and vocational departments are equipped with some of the finest and most functional equipment available.
A multi- purpose student activities center serving as an oversized foyer for the auditorium, the cafeteria, gymnasium and auxiliary gym contains two sunken, carpeted conversation areas for student use in their free time.
Construction on the project began May 13, 1969, and was expected to be completed by the opening date of school in September, 1970. A sixty day strike and default by sub contractors responsible for ground work delayed the September opening until January, 1971. Upon final completion acceptance notice was given to architects and contractors, May 24, 1971 .
In the spring of 1970, Dr. J. E. Turner was named principal of the school and was given professional staff of ninety-three. Assistant principals named by the board were Mr. L. W. Hennigan and Mrs. Louise Martin.
Upon his appointment Dr. Turner began preparation for the month opening of the school in the fall. Youngsters from several schools which would compromise the school population were brought together for the election of the student council officers, the selection of school colors, the selection of a mascot, etc. in order to establish school spirit and loyalty and pride for the new school.
By late spring "Project 63" was named Southwood. Members of the community, board members and other interested parties were asked to submit names appropriate to the school. Response to the request was heavy, and after much deliberation, the board selected the name, Southwood, because it was particularly indigenous to the beautiful wooded area in which the plant is located and because it offered proportion and balance to the high school north of the city, Northwood.
Because of the uncertainly of the completion date, Southwood and Woodlawn High School were platooned at Woodlawn, both sharing the facilities there and each operating on forty minutes class schedules.
By January 19, 1971 the plant had reached the stage of construction, though not complete, that the school could be housed there. Teachers and students alike had an adjustment to make in the first days at the new facility because of the change over from forty minute classes to the semester. The school reverted to the regular schedule April 1 when all lost time was made up.
The community looked to Southwood with pride as the school joined her sister educational institutions, for the plant reflects a philosophy, which while it has spared nothing at the expense of the instructional program, has at time considered and retained aesthetic values which the plant so handsomely mirrors.