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Plant City students diverted as possible sinkhole closes their elementary

PLANT CITY — Trapnell Elementary School was dark and quiet early Wednesday, with just two school officials and a security guard in the parking lot. They held a stack of maps to Gallagher Road's Strawberry Crest High and Bailey Elementary schools.

Officials closed Trapnell on Tuesday after a possible sinkhole was discovered beneath part of the campus over the weekend, near the administrative building and media center.

Parents and students were informed of the closing through news reports and automated phone calls from the principal.

It seemed to work.

No students or parents showed up Wednesday morning. Down the road, Trapnell students stood outside waiting for buses to take them to the other schools.

Sabetri Persad, 32, stood at Trapnell and Alafaya Creek streets with her 6-year-old daughter, Shivani, a Trapnell first-grader.

Persad said she heard about the closing on the news and got the phone call. "I think they're doing a great thing keeping the kids from being hurt," she said.

As the bus pulled up, Persad looked to Shivani and said, "It might be fun."

Shivani smiled and nodded before running onto the bus.

There were no classes Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Tuesday because of a teacher planning day.

Trapnell's 570 students are being sent to the new Strawberry Crest High School and Bailey Elementary School until officials determine it is safe to return. Engineers are still studying the underground void, which is not visible above ground. It might be a depression, officials say. A sinkhole is a depression accompanied by limestone erosion. Whatever it is, officials decided it was not safe to occupy the school for now.

Those in grades 3, 4 and 5 will attend classes at the high school, which has plenty of unused capacity, while the rest will attend Bailey.

Outside Strawberry Crest High School, at U.S. 92 W and Gallagher Road, several police officers were directing traffic around road construction.

High school students stood outside with signs showing elementary students the way. Trapnell guidance counselor Kristen Endris was with the students, helping direct children and talk to parents.

"I think they're just happy to have somewhere safe for their kids to go," she said. "We feel very welcome here."

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said no new sinkholes were reported overnight. Trapnell's depression is not far from one that opened on Sam Allen Road last week.

Plant City students diverted as possible sinkhole closes their elementary 01/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 11:12pm]
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