When school bells rang in a new school year in Pasco County on Aug. 24, the day had special meaning at Cypress Creek Middle School, 8845 Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel.
It wasn’t the first time middle school students had attended the Cypress Creek campus on the Old Pasco Road, but it was the first time they were heading to classes in a school built specifically for them.
Middle school students began attending classes at a shared campus for middle and high school students in 2017, because the district couldn’t afford to build both a high school and middle school — as it had originally intended.
Construction began on the $43.5 million middle school building in 2019, and now the middle schoolers have a place that’s their own.
The enthusiasm that typically accompanies a new school opening was muted this year, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The school is following strict safety protocols.
- Everyone on campus must wear a mask.
- Parents drop off students at a specific place.
- Students are directed to walk one-way down hallways, in the main classroom building.
- Desks and chairs are spread out in classrooms.
Other safety steps include encouraging social distancing between people, placing some lunch tables outdoors to prevent cafeteria crowding, and turning off the water fountains — except to fill water bottles.
The district also kept parents off school campuses, because of concerns about COVID-19, and it kept media off, too, with the exception of allowing a special tour of Cypress Creek Middle on its opening day.
Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd escorted representatives of The Laker/Lutz News and The Tampa Bay Times around the new school’s campus.
Principal Tim Light shared a few thoughts, as he stood in front of a giant painting of a coyote, the school’s mascot.
“I’m very excited,” Light said, noting he’d been planning for the school’s opening for months.
“Honestly, I never thought this day was going to get here,” Light said.
“I just want to see what the day is going to bring. Get these kids in here and get them going,” Light said.
Gadd was clearly delighted, as he showed off the district’s newest school.
“It’s really a beautiful school, the way it’s laid out,” the deputy superintendent said.
Cypress Creek Middle has the capacity of 1,600 students. Its opening reduces crowding at John Long Middle School. It also provides relief to Wiregrass Ranch High School — as Cypress Creek Middle students previously on campus shift over to the new middle school, creating more capacity at Cypress Creek High.
Beyond the normal features found at middle schools, this one has a black box theater and a suite of dance, chorus and orchestra rooms.
“It’s a space like no other in Pasco County,” said Peter Nason, the school’s theater teacher. “It is a jewel in the crown of this county, I think.
“It has space for the kids to be creative. For them to learn. For them to realize, really, what theater is, and it goes beyond the classroom,” Nason said.
Gadd is delighted by the opportunities the theater program will create.
“I first saw one of these, probably in a school 10 years ago. I’ve been dreaming about building one since then,” Gadd said.
“It’s an incredible space. It’s a dream space,” Nason told Gadd.
Gadd said: “I look forward to the first show.”
Nason responded: “I look forward to you seeing the first show.”
Two new public charter schools
Cypress Creek Middle was the only new traditional public school opened in Pasco County for the 2020-2021 school, but two new public charter schools also opened. Innovation Preparatory Academy opened for grades kindergarten through six, at 7800 Avery Scope Way in Wesley Chapel. Pinecrest Academy also opened for grades kindergarten through six, at 33347 State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel.
Published September 02, 2020