SPRING HILL — Give Susan Duval a couple of hours and she will take you on a tour of the Springstead High School of the future. Be sure to bring an active imagination along on the campus trek with the school principal.
Visitors can picture dancers twirling and actors practicing lines in a yet-to-be built classroom building. There is a patch of grass where gymnasts and wrestlers would stretch out in a new building behind the gym. The space in front of the school is where a two-story addition to the media center would rise; a stage house would be tacked onto the auditorium.
A proposed master plan also calls for a new field house and a standalone center for the early childhood education program, among other improvements.
All told, the campus would add some 95,000 square feet and 920 stations. The total price tag could top $25 million, according to district estimates.
"This has the potential to be the most far-reaching project for this school," Duval said. "This is not fluff."
Her wishes, however, are on a collision course with the reality of tight budgets, differing priorities and "needs" vs. "wants."
Next month, the School Board will consider the Springstead plan and where to incorporate the projects in the district's overall master facilities plan. That plan is a long-range vision, a list of projects to tackle when the need for more student capacity arises, said facilities director Roland "Bo" Bavota, who worked on the plan with Duval.
Even without any new construction at Springstead, the $55 million Weeki Wachee High set to open this fall will eliminate the need for all but one or two of Springstead's 36 portable classrooms within two years, according to district projections.
"Our mission is to get rid of portable classrooms," Bavota said. "(Duval) has a different mission."
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Duval and other staffers say shifting attendance boundaries alone will not address Springstead's needs.
The school's programs are beginning to attract students from throughout the county, she said, noting the new International Baccalaureate program and the career academy in Web design.
The school wants to broaden its fine arts program and offer career academies in early childhood education, sports and entertainment marketing, and television and digital production. Springstead already offers classes in those fields, but to earn state certification as a career academy, a school has to have the tools, Duval said.
"I know things are tough (financially) right now, but if we want to help students prepare for the future, then it's important we have the proper facilities and technology to make that happen," she said. "Our kids need to be competitive when they leave this high school. The community is depending on it."
At next month's workshop, the School Board will see an aerial photo of the campus with the additions superimposed. But that is no way to see how the academic and athletic programs are bursting at the school's seams, Duval said, opting instead to give each board member a tour of the school.
"I'll do it five times," she said, once for each member.
In the northeast corner of the campus, a new classroom building would sit adjacent to the art and music center and take the place of a long row of portables. The building, which could be as large as 59,000 square feet and run as much as $15 million, would include studio space for the performing arts academy.
"It's the linchpin of this whole plan," Duval said.
She gave other highlights, roughly in her order of priority:
• The 4,600-square-foot physical education building would be used for wrestling, aerobics and storage. A locker room for the girls varsity sports program would be added. A nearby room used now for wrestling and aerobics would be converted into a graphic arts lab. A 7,000-square-foot field house, concession stand and restrooms adjacent to the stadium are last on Duval's priority list but included in the cost of the new PE building. That estimated price tag: $2 million.
• A one-story, 4,300-square-foot center for the early child care education program would take the place of a portable that houses the classes and working preschool. Estimated cost: $700,000.
• A 3,000-square-foot "stagecraft" area adjacent to the theater building across Mariner Boulevard would give students a workshop to build sets and storage areas performances. Students now use the workshop on the main campus and haul sets to the theater. Estimated cost: $550,000.
• A two-story, 8,800-square-foot addition to the media center, which Duval said fails to meet students' needs in terms of size, number of volumes and technology. The television and digital production studio, currently housed in a former art classroom, would also be here. Estimated cost: $1.6 million.
The presentation for the School Board shows all the projects in two phases. But Duval said she will offer a plan that breaks down into five components.
"We don't want $25 million all at one time," said Clifford Davenport, a physical science teacher who has worked at Springstead for 18 years and helped develop the plan. "We'd like to see a sequential tackling of the problem."
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The budget picture does not look good for any major construction projects in the foreseeable future, district chief financial officer Desiree Henegar said.
The district gets less ad valorem money for capital projects after a recent change to state law, and property values have plummeted, Henegar said. The projected $15 million in property tax revenue for capital is already dedicated to debt service on existing construction loans, leases, school maintenance and other costs, she said. The district has just about maximized its borrowing ability.
"I know where Mrs. Duval is coming from, but the money is not there," Henegar said. "We're not capital rich anymore."
Springstead has not been given short shrift in capital projects, Henegar noted. The district has spent about $14.4 million in the last few years for a new cafeteria, classroom space and other renovations.
Still, dedicating more dollars to Springstead would help bring parity among the district's high schools, Duval said.
"We've sat by pretty patiently making do with what we have," she said. "From our perspective, it's our turn. The potential return on these investments would be tenfold in terms of opportunities for kids, and that is what this is all about."
Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.