Hernando School Board agrees to repair plan for Westside Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Westside Elementary School students, teachers and parents have been waiting anxiously for more than a month to hear the fate of their school.

On Tuesday, they breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Hernando County School Board members approved replacing the school's failing roof and aging air-handling system and agreed to a temporary fix that will allow students to stay in the school next year.

That means no students will have to spend a year at a different school or in portables, which were options.

Westside principal Gina Michalicka said she was happy with the decision. More than that, she was happy that there was finally a decision.

"There was lots of stress at Westside," Michalicka said.

With the school facing an urgent need for costly repairs, School Board members last month were presented with a variety of options, including the school's permanent closure.

The estimated cost to repair the roof and air-handling system is about $3.5 million. It will cost roughly $190,000 for temporary repairs to the roof.

Facilities director Roland "Bo" Bavota described the temporary fix as a "huge Band-Aid," saying it essentially buys the district an extra year while plans for the roof replacement are drawn up. The replacement would occur after the 2014-15 school year.

The option for the temporary fix — described as a "top coat" — came before the board for the first time at Tuesday's workshop. Previously, Bavota had said he didn't think students should occupy the school next year because of the poor condition of the roof.

The board had considered temporarily busing students to Pine Grove Elementary or creating a cluster of portable classrooms at Westside. The busing option would have cost about $170,000; the portables would have cost upward of $1 million.

A majority of board members felt the temporary fix followed by the roof replacement was the best option.

"I really think we're in good shape doing what we can," board member Dianne Bonfield said. "I'm all for making the building safe, which I believe this will."

"It goes a long way," Bavota said.

Board member Matt Foreman, while he agreed with the plan, worried about where the money would come from and what impact it would have on the district.

Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino said he was concerned that Westside could become a money pit.

Hernando School Board agrees to repair plan for Westside Elementary 05/20/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 7:36pm]

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