23 Aug 2014
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School Board Considers Sarasota High Renovation

At Tuesday's monthly work session the board approved district staff to come up with a master plan for the renovation.

School Board Considers Sarasota High Renovation School Board Considers Sarasota High Renovation School Board Considers Sarasota High Renovation School Board Considers Sarasota High Renovation

The project is in its infancy but Sarasota County School officials are planning on a multi-million dollar renovation to multiple buildings at Sarasota High. 

At Tuesday's monthly work session, the school board unanimously approved staff to internally come up with a master plan for the school's renovation. 

Approval came after a lengthy presentation and discussion about the district's construction priorities. According to a capital project matrix the schools that have the most renovation needs, along with , are , and Pine View School. 

"Based on a whole lot of analysis, we focused on Sarasota High School," said district chief operating officer Scott Lempe. "If you’ve been on that campus, there are a myriad of challenges."

Lempe said the school has two cafeterias that are, "two small and at opposite ends of the campus." He added the school has the same problem with its gyms. One does not have air conditioning and both are too small to host state basketball tournaments.  

More troubling, Lempe said, is that one the campus's chillers is completely shot and must be replaced regardless of board approval. 

The conceptual plan presented on Tuesday had three phases, which starts with the complete renovation of building 4 on the campus. That building, Lempe said, has to be renovated regardless if the board approved the conceptual plan. 

Once renovated that building would become a 9th grade center. Buildings 5 and 42, which would house students while building 4 is being renovated, would then probably be demolished after building 4's renovation. 

"Once that’s done it would free up space inside [buildings] 13 and 14 to deal with science labs and different academic programs," said district construction services director John Dougherty. "Then you would come back in, build the [centralized] cafeteria and gym and finally could deal with anything that’s left in the site construction plan."

Superintendent Lori White said since the renovation is just at the conceptual plan stage there are few specifics, such as cost, timeframe and specific classroom movement, for the project. 

"It’s so difficult to have credible numbers at this stage before you even have a master plan," White said. "We are looking for permission  [from the board] to create a master plan."

"We are at a bubble diagram level ...  knowing it's a work in progress," Lempe said.

The plan calls for the elimination of all portable classrooms on the campus. Lempe said the elimination of student stations is not a concern because Sarasota High's enrollment is not close to capacity and enrollment is not expected to jump back to levels of 2006-07. 

In 2006, 2,669 students attended Sarasota High. At the start of this year, enrollment was 1,888. 

While not completely opposed to the plan, board member Carol Todd said she has some concerns with distance between classrooms and the plan for School Ave. The road, closed during school hours, cuts through a portion of the campus that lies just off Bahia Vista. 

"Tearing down buildings 5 and 42, that means building 4 would be the only building on the west side of the campus," Todd said. "All other students are in the east. These students will still have to move to the east side for art, music, lunch."

Board Chair Frank Kovach is also concerned that renovation would not help the campus spacing and security.

"When we look at how we secure Sarasota High, I get lots of emails about Sarasota High students wondering off campus," Kovach said. "It is still a wide open campus and this concept plan, to me, doesn’t solve that."

Another issue is School Ave, which Todd said that having students cross that street after school is very dangerous. "As we look at this plan now we are talking about [students] moving across School Ave to either go to the gym or our 9th graders moving across School Ave to the cafeteria," Todd said. "[I have] grave concerns about that."

White said that rerouting School Ave, unlike rerouting Orange Ave during the Booker High rebuild, is not possible. 

"Those options are not there," White said. "At Booker we had an expensive option of rerouting the existing thoroughfare. Really don’t have that with School Ave."

The board approved staff to move forward with completing the master plan, which gives staff time to address the board's security concerns in its plan.

Lempe said after rebuilds of Booker High and Riverview High, HVAC renovations to Sarasota Middle and land purchase for an elementary school in North Port, he believes there is $24 million to spend on competing projects - like a renovation at Sarasota High. 

If the district were to address all of the schools needs district wide, Lempe said that would cost more than $200 million. 

White agreed that Sarasota High is the best place for the district to invest in construction. "Focus the competing dollars on this competing project," White said. "What has the most instructional impact.”?

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