It was the first day of school and the little boy had his mother in a death grip. With tears gushing from his eyes, he said he was not going into class, that he didn't want to go and no one could make him. But hundreds of other children were eager to file into the newly remodeled Curtis Fundamental Elementary School at Beltrees Street and Milwaukee Avenue. Kindergartener Sydney Smith, 5, was one of them.
Her eyes wide, she didn't have a lot to say as she happily tagged along with her father, Kelly, on the campus Wednesday morning, but her father did.
"It's great,'' Kelly Smith said. "Everything is new. The campus is beautiful and the neighborhood is much better.''
Kelly Smith, whose older son Lee, 10, attends fifth grade at the school, said two kids once vandalized his car while he was still in it at the former location at 1210 Holt Ave. in Clearwater.
But the chief reason for the change was there was no room to grow, said Principal Kathy Duncan.
"It was too small,'' she said.
Duncan was overjoyed when the school district decided last year to move Curtis Fundamental to the Dunedin Elementary School campus.
"It's very clean, it's bigger,'' she said.
The school has 464 students and four classes for each grade level. At the other facility, only first and fourth grades had four classes. The other grades had three.
The graceful 1926-era Spanish-style building where the fourth- and fifth-graders study is yellow with a red tile roof and large arched windows.
The other remodeled buildings were constructed in 1957.
Brick pavers cover the courtyard where Susan McElveen stood with a line of fourth-graders waiting for the tone to sound so they could walk into class.
"They're still kind of nervous but so are we,'' said McElveen, a teacher at Curtis Fundamental for 20 years. "I locked myself out of the new classroom (one time). I'm still getting used to the new key.''
Erin King, 9, said she likes the new school.
The other one "had a lot of portables everywhere,'' she said.
Jennifer Hitchcock, waiting in the line with her son, Cameron, 9, said she feels relieved to be out of the "old, hot'' Curtis Fundamental and into the new one.
"It's just so much more friendly,'' she said. "We are so lucky.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.