By B.C. Manion
Quail Hollow Elementary in Wesley Chapel will be closed for at least two school years to allow for renovations of up to $10 million.
The students attending Quail Hollow will be re-assigned to Wesley Chapel and Watergrass elementary schools with some exceptions being made for specific programs. For instance, children in prekindergarten will be attending Veterans.
Quail Hollow must be closed because keeping the school open while the work is done would be too disruptive for learning, said Michelle Berger, the school’s principal.
Berger and other school district officials fielded questions about the plan at a community meeting March 6 in Quail Hollow’s media center.
“This is a building that needs remodeling,” Berger said, noting it has an open design and was built in 1974, a time when it was thought children would benefit from such an environment.
“It probably took about 37 minutes for the educators to figure out it didn’t work,” Berger said. “You can hear sounds from all around.”
The principal asked the crowd, “Raise your hands if you wish your son’s and daughter’s classroom had a wall and doors.”
Hands shot up all over the room.
“We’re losing our building for a couple of years,” Berger said, but when they return, the classrooms will have windows, walls and a door and there will be storage space.
The renovation is being done with money from Penny for Pasco, a sales tax voters approved in November.
Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning said the district plans to renovate all of its schools with a similar design. Quail Hollow and Shady Hills elementary schools are the first on that list.
The district called the meeting to field questions because it needs to begin making plans now to move students at the beginning of next school year, Browning said.
Ray Gadd, assistant superintendent for administration and operations for the district, told the crowd when the renovations are completed, “the building will be just like a new school.”
The estimated cost for the project is $8.5 million to $10 million, Gadd said. By comparison, it costs $20 million to $21 million to build and outfit an elementary school from scratch, he added.
The district expects to go out for bid on the project sometime this summer, Gadd said.
As the project gets rolling, the district plans to establish an advisory committee to offer suggestions on the remodeling, Gadd said.
The project could take two to three years to complete, Gadd said.
However, he added, “My intention is to put it in the fast track because this is going to be a growing area.”
Some parents wondered why the children couldn’t be assigned to nearby Veterans.
Gadd said Veterans cannot accommodate more children because it is full, and it also lacks space on campus to add portable classrooms.
Six portable classrooms will be added at Watergrass and at Wesley Chapel to accommodate the increased enrollment, Gadd said.
While portables are being added, those children will not be kept separate or treated differently than other students at the schools, said John Abernathy, principal at Wesley Chapel and Scott Mitchell, principal at Watergrass.
Abernathy said his school intends to seamlessly weave in the Quail Hollow children with the rest of the kids.
Mitchell made the same commitment: “It’s all going to be one big family.”
Both principals plan to give students and parents from Quail Hollow a chance to visit their campus to get acquainted with it and with staff before the school year ends.
Teachers from Quail Hollow also will be re-assigned to Wesley Chapel and Watergrass, which will help in the transition.
Parents posed questions about transportation, class size and childcare.
Gadd said the district is developing the bus routes and will be adding buses to minimize the amount of time children spend on the bus. He said the district will be as accommodating as possible in addressing individual needs.
There’s no intention to increase class size as a result of these enrollment shifts.
Berger urged parents to help make the transition a positive one for their children. She noted the kids are likely to adopt whatever attitude their parents have about the change.
“Your kids will believe what you believe. We have to be excited about this,” said Berger, who will be re-assigned within the district during the project.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.