TARPON SPRINGS — One of the most renowned high school music programs in the country practices in a maze of cramped classrooms built in the 1960s.
Most of the 400 students in Tarpon Springs High's Leadership Conservatory for the Arts magnet are packed into five classes held simultaneously in separate rooms. Sometimes the building's narrow hallways double as rehearsal and storage space.
A major renovation paid for by the Pinellas County School District seeks to change that. The bulk of the $12.2 million project will convert the current auditorium seating space into a home for the school's band, orchestra, percussion, chorus and color guard with plenty of storage room.
That's not all. The renovation will also create new courtyards and improve drainage. It is expected to be completed by fall 2018. Construction is set to begin this summer.
"It's going to allow us the opportunity to expand the curriculum and offerings to our students," said magnet program director Kevin Ford.
The plans call for a new joint lobby entrance, which will connect the auditorium and gymnasium facing Gulf Road and have space for concessions and trophy cases. It will allow musicians and athletes to show off their work.
The lobby will extend to the current administration building — an effort to create a more unified look for the front of the school. Uniformity and student safety were among the top priorities for the renovations, said principal Leza Fatolitis.
The former administration building, which is currently used as office space, will be demolished to create a courtyard for students. Tables with umbrellas will be installed for lunch and outdoor classroom seating.
"Every student by (2018) will have something new to call their own experience at Tarpon High," Fatolitis said.
Another building that currently houses an art lab and kiln will be demolished to create an open, wide mall to help with security and supervision on campus. The art lab will be relocated to a building with other art classes.
"It just makes it more functional and more of an environment where kids can move and get some open space," said Clint Herbic, the district's associate superintendent of operational services.
The renovation project includes an improved drainage system to curb flooding on campus. In some cases, the gym and several classrooms have flooded within 10 minutes during downpours. New drainage installed in the back of campus is expected to clear walkways where standing water gathers.
What's more, the school's bus loop will be relocated near the practice field on South Florida Avenue to alleviate traffic on Gulf Boulevard.
Although it is not part of the larger project, school leaders plan to plant red cedar trees in the football field's end zone to block the sound from the outdoor marching band rehearsals. The school is also looking to buy wearable metronomes for its students instead of using loud speakers.
Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.