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Two Pasco schools listed for partial rebuilding

LAND O'LAKES — It's no secret that Sanders and Richey elementary schools have construction and design issues.

Built in 1944, Sanders floods. The Land O'Lakes school has problems with parking. And its spread-out design creates isolation on the edges of campus.

Built in 1958, Richey has high ceilings and tile floors, making it tough to have quiet conversation. A day rarely goes by when one of the New Port Richey school's in-room air conditioners doesn't work.

Each has many more maintenance requests in a year than the Pasco district's newer elementary schools.

And each is now on the list to be at least partially torn down and replaced with new structures.

"It basically boils down to poor initial design and old age," maintenance director Gerry Brown explained.

Engineers from the Florida Department of Education conducted studies of both Richey and Sanders and determined it would be more cost effective to rebuild many of their buildings than to renovate the existing ones.

At least half of Sanders' buildings are slated to go. A final determination for Richey hasn't been made.

Current plans call for beginning work at Sanders in the summer of 2009. Assistant superintendent Ray Gadd said students from Sanders could be temporarily transferred to classrooms at a new Connerton Elementary School, which is slated to open in August 2009, until the work at their school is complete.

Until the state indicates which buildings at Richey can be replaced, that project is not scheduled.

School Board member Marge Whaley said she was not surprised by the proposals to raze several buildings.

"The buildings are so old and so awful," she said, calling Sanders "a depressing place to be in."

"Sanders is our school in the county that is in the worst shape," said Whaley, whose own children attended the school. "Richey is not as bad as Sanders, but it's bad."

Sanders principal Jill Middleton stressed that her school is safe for students. But she readily acknowledged that the buildings cause maintenance nightmares.

Middleton hasn't done much beyond talking to the PTA and school advisory committee about the possibilities for the school, because many questions still remain, such as which buildings might be replaced and what will happen to the students during construction. The Connerton idea is just one concept floating around, she said.

"When we're packing our boxes, I'll believe it," she said.

Richey principal Ken Meisner hasn't even started conversations with parents yet, as the school is still awaiting final determination from the state as to what can happen there.

"It could be that it would never happen," Meisner said. But nodding to the many upkeep and design issues of the school, he added, "It sure would make it nice."

Pasco school officials have been paying closer attention to the district's older buildings lately to ensure they remain usable. It's not been easy, though, with all the attention paid to new construction to house a growing student population, Gadd said.

The district already has renovated Stewart Middle School. Projects at Pasco Middle and Pasco High are in the works.

"Everything is driven by the budget," Gadd said of the plans to improve the older schools. "But I can tell you, our commitment to doing it is there."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Two Pasco schools listed for partial rebuilding 03/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 10:39am]
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