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School Board won't fund Springstead High expansion

BROOKSVILLE — The School Board on Tuesday declined to set aside any funding for a multi-phase expansion plan at Springstead High School that could cost as much as $25 million.

Board members agreed to incorporate the ideas into a master facilities plan. But concerns about the grim budget picture and more pressing needs took precedence.

"Man, I wish we could afford all of that," board member Sandra Nicholson said. "It would be an awesome campus."

"It's hard to even talk about funding of new capital programs when we're seeing what state is doing with funding," Chairman Pat Fagan said.

Springstead principal Susan Duval said starting to fund the plan now is vital for the Spring Hill school's to flourish.

The plan calls for a host of improvements, including a new classroom building and a new physical education building for wrestling, aerobics and storage. The plan also includes a one-story, 4,300-square-foot center for the early child care education program; a 3,000-square-foot "stagecraft" area adjacent to the theater building across Mariner Boulevard; and a two-story, 8,800-square-foot addition to the media center.

Amber Wheeler, the district's director of planning and growth management, said that within five years, the district's elementary schools will be operating at 100 percent capacity.

"We need to build elementary (projects)," she said. "That should be our number one priority."

Facilities director Bo Bavota cited other pressing, high dollar needs such as improvements to an aging Eastside Elementary and a new roof for Central High School. Both Bavota and Wheeler did recommend the board incorporate the Springstead projects into an overall plan without funding.

In other action, the board reached a narrow consensus to apply for federal grant money for sidewalks leading to Spring Hill Elementary instead of Chocachatti Elementary and Nature Coast High schools.

Board members cited the higher number of students who live within 2 miles of the school or who walk or bike to the school already as the reason to ask staff to hustle to get in the grant application for federal dollars through the Safe Routes to School program. Districts can only submit one project for consideration each year.

School and county planners had recommended applying for $315,000 to pay for sidewalks along Powell Road and California Street near Chocachatti and Nature Coast. The work for that application is nearly complete because the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization had sought stimulus funds for the project.

Residents in the area submitted a petition with several hundred signatures for sidewalks in the area. But board members said the schools with higher numbers of students should be given priority.

At Spring Hill Elementary, the grant money would pay for sidewalks along the west side of Roble Street from Elgin Boulevard to Tallwood Street; along the north side of Roble from the school gate to Pillar Street; and along the east side of Colchester Avenue from Elgin Boulevard to Shafton Road. The application will also include improvements to an existing sidewalk on Roble.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

School Board won't fund Springstead High expansion 03/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 9:20pm]
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