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New and improved spaces await Hernando students and teachers

"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth."

So wrote the Greek author Diogenes Laertius.

But even education needs a foundation. And buildings, roads and other infrastructure cost school districts millions of dollars annually.

Hernando County is no different. The school district spent more than $75-million on facility improvements that will debut with the start of the 2008-09 school year Aug. 18.

"This is a typical summer," district facilities director Roland Bavota said of summer construction.

Though the growth in student population isn't what it was at the height of the housing boom, Bavota said there is still growth. Now the district is trying to catch up with previous expansion while keeping up with the county's present growth.

From new schools to new pipes, many schools around the county will have a new look come opening day.

Here's a rundown of some of the major projects the district has undertaken (all costs listed include construction costs, furniture, books and any other supplies the schools need to be ready):

Explorer K-8

What it is: New school

Cost: $54-million

Status: Completed

This new building, already open, took three years of planning and 21 months of construction. The 279,000-square-foot center can house up to 2,100 students and doubles as the newest hurricane shelter in the county.

"I am very thrilled," said principal Dominick Ferello. "The construction went extremely well."

What impresses Ferello most about the new building is its technology features, from surround sound in the classrooms to electronic student response pads that will let them answer a teacher's question by remote control. The school will be home to the district's gifted education center.

Springstead High

What it is: Renovations

Cost: $13.5-million

Status: Expected completion Aug. 18

Workers are coming down to the wire trying to complete renovations and additions at Springstead. Principal Susan Duval is confident the building will be ready when school opens Aug. 18.

"They've been working long hours and extra days to get everything done," she said.

The improvements include a new cafeteria, new classrooms and offices in the old cafeteria, and new fine arts space.

J.D. Floyd Elementary

What it is: New classroom buildings, other improvements

Cost: $7.9-million

Status: Expected completion in December

Two new classroom buildings are being erected on the school's campus to meet the demand of a growing student population. One of the buildings will be two stories tall and the other will be one story. Modifications are also being made to the bus loop to allow school buses better access.

Pine Grove Elementary

What it is: New classroom buildings, renovations

Cost: $7.9-million

Status: Expected completion in December

Like J.D. Floyd, Pine Grove will add new classrooms. All of Pine Grove's new structures will be single-story buildings, but the number of new buildings will be double that at Floyd. Workers also have expanded the cafeteria and built a new bus loop.

Hernando High

What it is: New classroom building

Cost: $2.7-million

Status: Expected completion in December

A two-story building will add eight new classrooms at the high school.

Moton Elementary

What it is: New underground watering system

Cost: $202,000

Status: Completed

The clay beneath the building expanded and contracted as it went from wet to dry. That caused cracks in the building. The new watering system will keep the clay wet at all times, which officials believe will make the building more stable.

Other improvements

Portable classrooms will be added at Moton Elementary, Pine Grove Elementary and the district's Exceptional Student Education Center.

Portable classrooms will be removed from Springstead High and Spring Hill Elementary. Workers laid sod where the portable units once stood at Spring Hill.

"Now you can actually see the school from Mariner (Boulevard)," Bavota said.

The costs to add and subtract portable classrooms were minimal, Bavota said, since the district moved units from one location to another.

Michael Sanserino can be reached at msanserino@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430.

New and improved spaces await Hernando students and teachers 08/02/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 3, 2008 11:28am]

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