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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Pasco schools to get major remodeling

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— The next year looks to be a busy one for the Pasco County school district’s new construction department.

Major remodeling projects are in the works for several schools, including Pasco Elementary, Anclote Elementary and Bayonet Point Middle. That’s in addition to those previously planned for Shady Hills Elementary and Quail Hollow Elementary, two schools that have temporarily closed until their work is completed in time for the 2015-16 school year.

Meanwhile, the mostly demolished Sanders Memorial Elementary is to be rebuilt into a STEAM magnet opening in 2015, and construction is to begin on a new elementary school that is set to open in 2016 in the Wesley Chapel area near Long Middle and Wiregrass Ranch High School.

The district plans about $217 million in construction projects for 2014-15. In addition to new schools and major remodeling efforts, several schools also are in store for cafeteria renovations, air-conditioning repairs or replacements, traffic improvements or other improvements.

Pasco County School Board members heard about those plans and more last week during a workshop on the district’s 10-year capital plan.

Through its construction efforts, the district is hoping over the next few years to relieve crowding at several schools that have seen enrollment swell, putting their buildings well over capacity and requiring the installation of numerous portable classrooms.

Few schools are bulging as much as Oakstead Elementary in Land O’ Lakes, which had 1,175 students this past school year. The school is built for 762.

The rebuilt Sanders Memorial Elementary is expected to take at least some of those Oakstead students. Sanders also will take students from Connerton Elementary, which had 984 students. In addition, Sanders will draw students from elsewhere in the district who want to be part of its STEAM magnet program. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Oakstead should get even more relief in 2017 when the district opens a new elementary school in the Bexley Ranch area off State Road 54.

Meanwhile, the new elementary school planned in Wesley Chapel for 2016 will ease crowding at Double Branch, Sand Pine and Seven Oaks elementary schools. A combined middle and high school to open in Wesley Chapel in 2017 will provide similar help to Dr. John Long Middle, Weightman Middle, Wesley Chapel High and Wiregrass Ranch High.

Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd said the district should have the dollars needed to deal with its immediate construction and renovation plans, but that could change if the county’s growth heats up again to the level it was a decade ago when the Penny for Pasco sales tax was instituted.

“We will definitely have challenges ahead of us in relation to revenue and the capital budget,” Gadd said. “But right now we are in pretty good shape.”

At least part of that is because of the Penny, the extra one-cent sales tax that generates revenue that is split among the school district, the county commission and municipalities. The school district’s share helps pay to build new schools or renovate or repair old ones.

Chris Williams, planning director for the district, said the Penny collections are at their highest level since the inception of the tax in 2004.

Board member Cynthia Armstrong said the county’s growth could have other ramifications. More companies that run charter schools could take notice and be lured to Pasco, she said.

Board Vice Chairman Steve Luikart, though, said the district won’t have to worry about competition from charter schools if it continues to beef up its academic offerings.

“The better job we do as a school system, the less the need will be for charter schools,” Luikart said.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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