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School's progress impresses board

Standing inside the new Renaissance Center, School Board member Linda Powers watched as workers ran electrical wiring through the ceiling and used power saws to cut through concrete.

Construction on the new school for students with behavioral problems is nearing completion, and Powers and other board members were on site Wednesday to watch the progress.

"I'm very impressed," Powers said. "Everything has been done with such precision."

That sentiment was shared by the other board members. While much of the conversation centered on the steps taken to ensure the school is built to code, the builder and the board members also discussed the many ways in which the new school is better than the existing one.

The school, which cost the district $6.7-million, will enroll up to 250 students - more than twice the number that can attend the existing school in Inverness, where for more than seven years students have gone to class in portables.

The new school will have 19 classrooms, a media center, a cafeteria, covered walkways, a playing field and a basketball court. It also will offer counseling and medical services to students who have been expelled from their regular school for drug and alcohol offenses. The school will open in August.

"It won't be a place to warehouse students," said board member Bill Murray. "It will be an education facility."

During the tour, representatives with Welbrow Construction Corp. answered questions about the special design of the new school.

They pointed out, for example, that the school can serve as a hurricane shelter for up to 550 people. It was built to withstand 120 mph winds.

The classrooms were built with high-impact resistant drywall.

"It's not like your house where you can punch a hole right through the wall," said project manager Chris Brown. Also, the hallways are long and narrow so students who leave the classrooms are visible at all times.

"Im really excited about having educational options for kids who are expelled for something they did. Something stupid not necessarily malicious," said board member Pat Deutschman. "Now, they will have a school where we can help them make good decisions."

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