Land O’ Lakes High undergoes $29 million makeover

When students arrive at Land O’ Lakes High School next week, they’ll see construction crews busy on a $29 million makeover that’s expected to take two years.

But, great care is being taken to ensure that students and staff are kept out of the path of work crews, and vice versa, said John Petrashek, director of construction services for Pasco County Schools.

This is what the new main entrance will look like at Land O’ Lakes High School, as a result of a major makeover. (Courtesy of Pasco County Schools)

During a recent tour of the school, Petrashek and Marc Graham, project superintendent for Walbridge, explained what the project entails and how it has been scheduled to allow the campus to be occupied during construction.

“It’s a five-phase project,” Graham said, with areas being walled or fenced off, to allow students, faculty and staff to carry on their activities, while crews work to modernize and reconfigure spaces in the high school.

In addition to Walbridge’s crew, the school district has two inspectors onsite, Petrashek said, who will be monitoring code compliance and quality assurance.

“With 1,700, 1,800 students — working on an occupied campus, even with the exceptional record that Walbridge has for safety and the protection of their staff and the students, it warranted having two people keeping eyes on this, coordinating with the school, the staff, the principal, to make this happen,” Petrashek said.

The project’s $29 million price tag includes construction, furniture and equipment, permitting fees, design fees, relocating portables, fencing and other expenses.

Marc Graham, project superintendent for Walbridge, is overseeing the massive makeover of Land O’ Lakes High School. Here, he describes how the company is converting an old stage area in the school’s gymnasium, that was being used for storage, into two classrooms, which will be used for physical education classes. (B.C. Manion)

Petrashek said it wouldn’t be possible to do the project on an occupied campus without the close cooperation of Ric Mellin, the school’s principal.

“Mr. Mellin has really been exceptional to work with on this project. He’s innovative. He’s taken the attitude, ‘We do what we have to, to make this a success,’” Petrashek said.

Some of the adjustments for the coming year include creative scheduling to maximize the use of classroom space.

“The principal has figured all of that out,” Petrashek said.

About a quarter of the school will be shut down at a time, Mellin said, noting parents did not want their children moved to a different campus or on any kind of split session.

The school day has been changed from seven periods to six periods, and the break for lunch has been shortened to 30 minutes.

Mellin said he thinks some people may have had the wrong idea about the scope of the project, perhaps thinking it was just a cosmetic update.

It’s far more than that, Mellin said.

“This is a tearing down walls to the bare minimum, redoing plumbing, electrical, upgrades to technology,” Mellin said.

The commons area is getting a new look, as part of massive renovation project at Land O’ Lakes High School. The project’s design makes it easier to get around the campus. (Courtesy of Pasco County Schools)

It also involves new walls, new floors and new ceilings, Graham said.

“The restrooms will be brought up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. They’ll be completely gutted and refurbished,” added Petrashek.

Doing such a substantial project while the campus is occupied requires a considerable amount of precaution, Petrashek said.

Mellin noted that parents wanted to be assured that the air quality will be protected.

Petrashek said the district will be on top of the issue. “We’re going to test on an ongoing basis, so we can respond,” he said.

The project will add capacity, but involves little new construction.

The school initially was constructed for 1,200 students. Over time, portables and additions increased its capacity to 1,700. At completion of the renovation, the capacity will exceed 2,000, Petrashek said.

A five-classroom addition is being made to the science wing, replacing an area that previously was occupied by portables.

“The other addition is the administration addition, which is going to be out front,” Graham said. That will be done in a later phase.

“There’s going to be inconvenience every day that this project goes on,” Petrashek said.

“But, anytime the contractors are doing work that is noisy, that will cause any type of disruption, they have to move that work to the swing shift, after school dismisses,” he said.

The project also will require adjustments from students and staff, as classes are moved from one part of the campus to another.

“Year two takes on a lot more classrooms,” Mellin said, noting, “we’re going to have to be a little more creative with our scheduling Year 2.”

But, the principal hopes that by then people will have adjusted to the idea that the school renovation is a work in progress.

The project must be completed by August 2019.

Meeting that deadline isn’t optional, Graham said.

“The seasons of the school are what they are,” he said, adding if construction crews run into some sort of delay, they’ll need to make up for lost time.

“Sometimes we have to run two shifts. Sometimes we run Saturdays and Sundays — that’s the extra time we have available,” Graham said.

Published August 9, 2017

Comments

  1. Natalie Probst says:

    It would be nice for Pasco County to think of schools that are falling apart, like Zephyrhills High. That school deserves some renovation and new equipment and furniture. I am saddened that one of the nicer schools in the county get the funds to make it even nicer when the ones that need it the most are ignored… Way to go Pasco County, always looking out for the best interest of their students….

    • Ric Mellin says:

      Pasco Schools has dedicated Penny for Pasco funding for renovations to LOLHS, ZHS, and HHS! Your school is next.

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