Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Education

District's first LEED school set to open in Ruskin

RECOMMENDED READING


RUSKIN — Like most new schools, J. Vince Thompson Elementary School boasts a playground, library and a cafeteria ready for hundreds of hungry kids.

And, like most new schools, Thompson was built to address growth in Ruskin.

But Thompson is outfitted with window awnings, carpeted classrooms and some waterless toilets. Those are a few clues that the newest school in Ruskin is different. What makes Thompson special is that it was created with energy efficiency and the environment in mind. It is the first LEED-designated school in the Hillsborough County School District.

Principal Milady Astacio is thrilled she was tapped to lead the innovative school and is looking forward to opening day.

"I'm super excited," she said. "I feel as though I have been keeping this big secret."

LEED, for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green certification program that recognizes best building strategies and practices.

The new school also features durable and low-maintenance dyed concrete floors, a reflective roof and an energy-efficient heating and cooling system. A further look reveals shoe box-sized windows on certain sides of the building to limit the sun's direct rays and picture frame-sized windows on other sides to take advantage of natural lighting.

• • •

Astacio smiled as she walked the school's campus, watching workers tend to the final punch list.

She did not hesitate to step into dirt with her black high heels to check on the progress of a play field, got pumped to see curriculum materials in the library and could not wait to show off the new student desks, which can be linked to form a hexagon.

But she said the real magic at Thompson is the way it will save money, lessen the impact on the environment and teach kids the need to be fiscally and environmentally responsible. Part of the curriculum will include lessons on the environment, energy conservation and recycling.

Astacio, pointing to the carpeted classrooms and concrete floor in the multipurpose room, said cleaning will be less expensive and require far fewer chemicals than the tile flooring commonly seen in most schools.

She said fabric bulletin boards in the classroom will replace the mounds of paper needed to display classroom or student work. And, the Florida-friendly plants and waterless toilets will save water and money.

The awnings, she added, will limit the sun's rays, saving cooling costs and repainting dollars.

"Every little piece adds up," she said with pride.

Schools are no different than other entities growing more environmentally conscious, said Cathy Valdes, a district deputy superintendent.

"It's critical because we need to reduce our energy consumption and conserve energy when possible," Valdes said. "We need to recycle and use the resources we have. Over the long term, we need to save operational dollars."

• • •

Astacio said Thompson also will be a technology-rich school, where classrooms are equipped with the latest laptops and projectors.

"Everything you need for instructional purposes is here," she said, smiling.

Astacio has worked as an educator in elementary school and middle school. She most recently worked at Wimauma Elementary, the last four years as its principal.

Wimauma, a high-poverty school, thrived under Astacio's leadership, earning high marks from the state, including an "A" on the most recent FCAT. Astacio said it was a tough decision to leave a school she loved but was ready to move to a new frontier.

Thompson sits on an education campus that includes nearby Lennard High School and Hillsborough Community College's SouthShore campus. Thompson's exterior is modeled after Lennard. And, Thompson and Lennard will share an innovative cooling system that freezes water overnight and cools the two campuses during the day.

• • •

Thompson will bring much relief to the Ruskin area when it opens Tuesday. Ruskin and Cypress Creek elementary schools have been bursting at the seams because of growth in the southern part of the county.

About 200 students transferred from Ruskin to Thompson and about 600 will move from Cypress Creek to Thompson.

Thompson's enrollment numbers are about 740 now, with room to grow to 950.

As Astacio prepares for opening day, she recognizes that as the school's first principal she has been given a great opportunity but also knows it is a challenge. She has to unite a study body and a staff.

"I have a clear vision," she said. "I want to serve children and support teachers."

• • •

Valdes said the district is planning another school in the southern part of the county, this time a middle school. Its targeted opening is August 2016 at Balm Road and U.S. 301 in Riverview. It will be just like Thompson, a LEED-designated school.

The cow pastures and vacant land in southern Hillsborough continue to turn into housing developments and that eventually results in the need to build new schools, Valdes said.

"It's all because of south-county growth," she said.

Contact Monica Bennett at [email protected]

 
Comments
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Published: 11/19/17

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

BROOKSVILLE — The lab at Eastside Elementary School looks high tech, featuring new flooring, cabinets and furniture. Assistant Principal Michael Lastra calls it cutting edge."It’s not like your typical classroom," Lastra said. "The school wanted it t...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Plans to erase the attendance boundaries for Ridgewood High School have grabbed all the attention.But the Pasco County school district also has proposed changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones for consideration this fall.They’re just ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

ST. PETERSBURG — The athletic facilities at St. Petersburg High are just like Bob Carter remembers from 50 years ago.He recalls it all fondly: The concession stands, ticket booths and bathrooms are still the same. The track is still outdated asphalt,...
Published: 11/15/17
In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

TAMPA — Robert Ryan cleaned out his office in May. He knew he was dying.He had kept driving to the University of South Florida even as he lost the use of his left arm. He had kept teaching English, even as tumors ravaged his mouth so that he could ha...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

The kids at Bing Elementary knew something special was about to happen when a six-foot white dog with a "target" over his right eye walked into the classroom.And they were right.On Tuesday (Nov. 14), volunteers and corporate supporters joined the Hil...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

DADE CITY — Dustin Snodgrass has a photograph of himself as a child in the pilot’s seat of a kid-size model airplane. Snodgrass, now 28, recently took a big step toward his goal of flying real aircraft with his first solo flight through a new profess...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

TAMPA — A weeks-long salary standoff between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers hit an emotional peak Tuesday as hundreds of teachers and students turned out to ask the School Board for their promised raises."War has been declar...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/15/17
Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

When it comes to your principles, there is no shame in putting up a fight.You can fight City Hall, and you can fight the power. According to the song, you can fight the law. You can even fight the good fight, whatever that means.But you cannot fight ...
Published: 11/14/17