TARPON SPRINGS — The Pinellas County School District has received state approval for a $10 million renovation project that will give more space to students in the Tarpon Springs High School magnet arts program.
The project, scheduled to be advertised for an architect in June and begin next school year, rang up as one of the most expensive on the list in a $195 million capital outlay survey the district recently sent to the Florida Department of Education that proposed needed construction projects.
Clint Herbic, assistant superintendent of operational services, said the biggest piece of the proposal was identified by the school's principal, Leza Fatolitis, and includes a plan to create more space for the hundreds of students in the Leadership Conservatory of the Arts magnet program.
Fatolitis, who is in her first year as principal, said the program's recent growth has caused it to need more space than is available on campus. She said her hope is to see each piece of the program — band, choral, vocal, dance and color guard — have an area to call its own.
Jason Herrington, director and coach of the dance and color guard groups, said the renovations will make a world of difference for his students, who have no regular place to practice. He said his teams often find space in hallways and carpeted foyers and work without regular dance resources like mirrors and bars.
"These kids are some of the best in the country at their craft and they are doing it in hallways," he said. "They know daily that we are struggling. All of us in the program are trying to share the same little space and consistently someone is pushed out."
Fatolitis noted other problems at the school, like lack of storage space and the separation between different parts of the magnet program.
"Right now the band room and auditorium are on one side of campus and everything else is on the other," she said. "We want everything to come together.
She said although designs are in their beginning stages, she doesn't expect them to include a completely new building, but rather additions and updates to the current facilities.
According to the school district, other parts of the proposal include improvements to campus drainage, updates to the gym and cafeteria and the construction of a courtyard in the center of campus.
"Our campus now is set up as clusters of small buildings," Fatolitis said. "A courtyard would be a centralized space for students to gather and could bring back unity, school spirit and cohesiveness."
She said she is "thrilled and honored" that the school and magnet program have the support of the district. Herrington agreed and said it is rare to see programs in the arts getting so much recognition.
"We are at the beck and call of what the county thinks we might need, and the fact that there are even talks about us getting these renovations for a program in the arts is incredible," he said.
Herbic said the overall goal of the changes is to help tie the campus together and make it more functional for everyone.
"This is a school that had needs. Needs that were imperative," he said. "There will definitely be a change in that campus when we're done."
Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @mreeves_tbt.