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New middle school reaches halfway mark

Dunedin Highland Middle School principal Peggy Landers is in her glory as she watches her new campus sprout up next door.

The $19.8-million project to construct a new school building, which broke ground in July, has reached the halfway mark, and Landers can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"We're looking forward to bigger classrooms and much more space and state-of-the-art technology and equipment," Landers said.

Walbridge Aldinger Co. is supervising the construction. The new facility is being built on the northwest corner of Dunedin Highland Middle's 40-acre campus at Patricia Avenue and Union Street, so the school's 1,200 students don't have to relocate during construction.

The current facility, with its main structure built in 1957, is about 140,830 square feet, including portables.

The new 177,000-square-foot facility, slated for completion in November or October, will have two two-story classroom buildings, a two-story administration building with a media center on the second floor, a gymnasium and a cafeteria/arts building.

The new facility will also have a wireless foreign language and speech lab, possibly one of the first in the district, said Tim Sewell, Walbridge Aldinger's project manager.

The new facility could accommodate about 1,500 students, Sewell said.

The exteriors will be painted stucco, with narrow blocked segments bordering the bottom of each building. The administration/media center structure will connect to both classroom buildings, with walkways on each floor, and will feature hurricane glazed windows up to the second floor and a curved metal roof, which will also grace the new gymnasium.

On Wednesday, about 200 workers were at the site, engaged in various stages of construction. The gymnasium, which was painted a pale toffee, got its finishing touches as workers laid the roof deck down on the administration building. Across the way, another group of workers slathered a healthy coat of stucco on one of the classroom buildings, while crews at the second classroom structure and cafeteria stacked concrete blocks higher and higher.

Walbridge Aldinger plans to hold a topping-off luncheon March 21 to celebrate the completion of the steel and exterior block phases of construction.

Landers is also enthused by a proposed partnership between Pinellas County schools and area recreational organizations.

The proposal would have the city use Dunedin Highland Middle property to build two softball fields and a recreational soccer field in exchange for shared access to the facilities. The city would also install lighting on basketball courts that are planned in the school renovation project.

A small group has been formed from the city and recreational organizations to establish the costs of the upgrading and identify a funding source for the project. It plans to bring a proposal to the City Commission in early April, according to leisure services director Harry Gross.

_ Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or at

Masons with Bill Overberg Masonry head home Wednesday after a long day working on the science building of the new Dunedin Highland Middle School. General contractor and construction manager Walbridge Aldinger Co. says the walls and roof will be up by the end of next week.