Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

Pasco School Board considers new Penny for Pasco projects

LAND O'LAKES — Promises made, promises kept.

That's the theme that supporters of the Pasco County school district's Penny for Pasco renewal effort are promoting as the campaign for a Nov. 6 referendum gets under way.

Using millions from the 1 percent sales tax that expires in 2014, the district has built several new schools and remodeled others.

Those are projects, campaign co-chairman Stew Gibbons noted Tuesday, that the district could not have completed without the Penny for Pasco.

But construction and maintenance needs persist, Gibbons said during a School Board workshop. He asked the board to define the project list for the next round of the Penny, as the effort moves forward to get voter approval to continue the tax.

District staff members presented a list of projects for consideration.

Unlike the first phase of the Penny, this one would not include new school construction. Rather, the focus would be on remodeling many aging schools.

"A lot of these schools that you will see on this list are the Kelley schools," district planning director Chris Williams said, referring to several schools designed in the 1970s by Sanford architect Eoghan Kelley.

Built to cope with rapid growth, the bunker-like schools have had problems with air conditioning, leaky roofs and faulty electrical circuits. Their cafeterias, libraries and bathrooms are too small for their populations. Some of their classrooms lack walls.

The district would look to remodel all of those schools. Other proposed projects include:

• Technology infrastructure updates at 41 schools.

• Campus safety improvements at Calusa, Cotee River, Giella, Moon Lake and Shady Hills elementary schools; Weightman Middle School; and Hudson High School.

• State-mandated technology system for data, research and operations.

"I like what we are seeing because it shows that all areas of our school district are getting improvements," board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said.

Board member Allen Altman praised district staff for its hard work in identifying projects. He said he still would like to see job training projects added to the list, if possible.

Upgrades at Marchman Technical Center are on the proposed list, but others are not.

Campaign co-chairman Hutch Brock said community support for the Penny for Pasco seems strong. But work remains to build backing for the tax.

"The way this will be successful is if it is portrayed as a citizens initiative," Brock said. "Lord knows we need this."

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