Graduate designs new Tarpon Springs elementary school

TARPON SPRINGS

Architect Ed Hoffman Jr. remembers the confusing layout of the old Tarpon Springs Elementary School from his days there as a student.

"That simple wing plan was somewhat frightening in that it was so spread out and all the corridors looked alike," Hoffman said.

So when the Tarpon Springs native started designing schools for Pinellas County in the late 1980s, he took a different approach.

With classrooms and other school facilities placed around a "short, central spine" — or main corridor — students are better able to orient themselves to their surroundings, he found.

And that has practical consequences.

"If a student isn't intimidated by the building, they're just that much more susceptible to learning," said Hoffman, 56.

This morning, about 700 students will get their first look at their new elementary school — a variation of the prototype Hoffman designed.

Gone are the dusty chalkboards and humid classes that Hoffman remembers from the 1960s. In their place are Smart boards that communicate with wireless laptop computers and climate-controlling vestibules outside classrooms designed to keep the heat out.

As a student, Hoffman was inspired by the gardens behind each classroom. He hopes today's students will feel connected to the natural world through the outdoor amphitheater, terraced seating that flanks the main corridor, a nature trail full of Florida native plants and a wireless outdoor learning center.

Large windows that face north and south help draw in daylight, while avoiding hotter east and west exposures. Covered walkways will keep students dry while allowing them to experience nature, Hoffman said.

"I think if there's anything to be proud about, it's bringing a little bit of daylight, a little bit of humanity to the facility. To me, it's just like this wonderful investment in our students," he said.

Hoffman said he hopes the new school is a source of pride for the city's smallest "Spongers," some of whom will be entering a school for the first time ever.

"If the building can reinforce the happiness, the caring, the comfort, the respect and love that we have for our children, they're going to be better citizens," Hoffman said. "If the building can express kindness to children and it functions well, then I think we've done our job."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Tarpon Springs Elementary

By the numbers

97,455 is the square footage of the new school.

64,000 was the estimated square footage of the old school.

$24.6M is the construction cost

of the new school.

$341,000 was what it cost to construct the old school in 1952.

16 schools in Pinellas County bear Ed Hoffman's design.

17 months were taken to construct the new school, including demolition

700 is the student enrollment.

The architect

Ed Hoffman Jr., 56

Wife Barbara, 51; daughter, Janie, 18; son, Lyle, 15.

• Tarpon Springs Elementary Class of 1963

• Founded Hoffman Architects in Tarpon Springs in 1981

• Designed his first school for Pinellas County in the late 1980s

• Bachelor's degree in design, master's degree in architecture,

Same spot, new address: Though it sits on the same site as the former school, the new Tarpon Springs Elementary School has a new address: 555 E Pine St.

>>FAST FACTS

Pinellas County School District

For first-day-of-school questions in Pinellas (transportation, student assignment): 587-2020.

Graduate designs new Tarpon Springs elementary school 08/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 21, 2008 2:51pm]

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