people standing behind a ribbon for a ribbon cutting
Lewis Falcon fans hustle behind a Niceville Chamber of Commerce Ribbon tp pose for the grand opening of their new gym floor.

August 29th marked the first home volleyball match for the Lewis School’s girls’ volleyball team. The Falcons hosted the Knights from Rocky Bayou Christian School for the game. Mixed in with the fans and parents were the trademark red shirts, blouses, and coats of the Niceville Chamber of Commerce members. 


The chamber, along with the Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Marcus Chambers, came to cut the ribbon on a newly completed half-cent sales tax upgrade. 


“51 years ago there was a floor that was placed down in this gymnasium,” Superintendent Marcus Chambers told the crowd of about 200 students, parents and Lewis School volleyball fans, “it was made of concrete and a rubberized surface. At that time, this floor was kind of revolutionary.”


But, as everyone knows, life – and gym flooring technology – moves quickly. The update on the floor in The Lewis School’s Taylor Haugen Gym puts the school on the cutting edge of technology for gymnasiums in the United States. 


The green Lewis Falcon at the center of the arena, newly buffed and ready for basketball and volleyball games and all 8 grades of physical education, looks sharp. 


“Sports is one aspect of this district that I believe makes us the A+ district that we are,” Chambers added, “to have a floor like this and to have a Taylor Haugen Gymnasium like this is something that we can all be extremely proud of.”


Principal Lindsay Smith, The Lewis School’s new principal, says the new floor buoys the pride and self-confidence of the children in the school and the community as well. 


“We have middle school sports because you learn so much from middle school sports,” Smith said. “You learn character, you learn time-management, you learn what you like to do and what you don’t like to do. It’s a time to try things out and experiment, that is what middle school is for, and it’s really important for our kids for the district to keep supporting that.”

What the Okaloosa Half Cent Sales Tax for Schools Has Done So Far.

The new flooring in the Taylor Haugen Gymnasium is just one of many projects planned for Niceville and Valparaiso-area schools in the next couple of years, thanks to the half-cent sales tax.  


“You know, this [new floor] is a big splashy thing, but there are so many other things, like rooms and air conditioning [units] and things inside of buildings that are just so important,” Smith said. 


The tax, which was approved by 55% of voters in 2020, tacks on a half percent tax to Florida sales tax and the Okaloosa County sales tax to fund a variety of infrastructure projects around the district. 


In addition to the gym floor, the school has also completed its single-point-of-entry upgrade and its security perimeter fence. 


The school will receive more security and technology upgrades as well as remodels of restrooms and classrooms. 


You can see the full list for all schools here.

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