New opportunities coming to Cypress Creek campus

Crews have begun work on Cypress Creek Middle School, being built on the site where Cypress Creek Middle High School now operates.

A new Instructional and Performing Arts Center, which will provide educational opportunities and entertainment, will rise on the same site.

This is what the new Instructional Performing Arts Center, to be built on the campus shared by Cypress Creek High School and the new Cypress Creek Middle School, will look like. The campus is at 8701 Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel. (Courtesy of Pasco-Hernando State College)

Both are slated to open in fall of 2020.

Pasco County Schools gave Pasco-Hernando State College the land where the performing arts center, IPAC, will be built. The state college is paying the construction costs for IPAC, and will oversee its use.

But, the new facility will benefit middle school through college students, through the programs it offers.

In a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News, representatives of the state college and the school district provided details relating to IPAC and the new middle school building.

The middle school project — at roughly 190,000 square feet, will take much longer to build than the 35,000-square foot performing arts center.

At the middle school, “they’re working on the site work. The foundation work is ongoing right now. Everything is on schedule for completion in July of 2020 for an August 2020 opening,” said Mike Gude, the school district’s director of construction services.

Cypress Creek Middle will have a capacity of 1,691 students, making it the largest of the district’s middle schools.

Safety and security will be first and foremost, with a single point of entry, controlled access and a fence around the school, Gude said.

Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent of Pasco County Schools, envisions opportunities for education, entertainment and growth for the local economy through the collaborative project involving the school district and state college.

“We designed our middle school to be very much compatible with the IPAC (performing arts center),” added Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent for Pasco County Schools. “We have a black box theater. A beautiful state-of-the-art black box theater. We also have an orchestra room. Dance. Chorus,” Gadd said.

Dr. Stanley Giannet, vice president of academic affairs and faculty development at PHSC, said the performing arts center will serve an important academic role.

“It’s called the Instructional and Performing Arts Center, the IPAC. The reason we have instructional there first is because in addition to a community-type events space and a performing arts space, the primary responsibility is to provide educational opportunities for our students, both dual enrollment students, students who will pipeline from the school district to PHSC, and community students, who wish to partake in the program,” he explained.

The state college will be using space within the performing arts center to provide courses to support a new Associate of Science degree in digital design and multimedia technology.

That new program was based on a needs analysis, and takes advantage of the fact that some programs are already offered in these areas at Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass and Cypress Creek high schools.

“It’s a natural extension,” Giannet said. Plus, there’s a documented need in the community for employees with these skills.

“This is a high-wage target industry,” Giannet said. The skills learned in this program can be applied to the performing arts, but also transferred to jobs in other industries, he said.

In the fall of 2020, Pasco County Schools is scheduled to open Cypress Creek Middle School. It is being designed for 1,600 students, making it the district’s largest middle school. The middle school will join Cypress Creek High and Pasco Hernando State College’s Instructional and Performing Arts Center. (Courtesy of Pasco County Schools)

Students also will be able to take courses to support an Associate of Arts degree, which they can transfer to a four-year degree, he said.

Students will be able to take dance, theater and music classes as electives toward their associate’s degree, Giannet said. To get the associate’s, students would need 36 hours of general education, but the remaining 24 could be acquired at IPAC, focused on the performing arts.

Campus could draw regional events
The performing arts center is considered to be an extension of the state college’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, which will be under the direction of an administrator who will report to Kevin O’ Farrell, provost of the Porter Campus.

The community also will have access to a new performing arts venue, and the campus could attract national or regional thespian festivals, or other kinds of performing arts events.

The 444-seat performing arts theater, the 150-seat black box theater at the middle school, and the arts classrooms available on campus provide a set of resources that could be attractive for such events, Gadd said. Plus, the site has plenty of parking to support such events, after school hours.

The black box theater might prove particularly popular with local theater groups, Gadd said.

“One of the advantages of the black box in the middle school is that it might be more amenable to some community theater activities, because I think the IPAC center is going to be like an anthill — it’s going to be very busy,” Gadd said.

The combined state college and school district resources on the campus create the potential for increased economic development, additional educational programs, and a new entertainment venue for the community, Gadd said.

Dr. Stanley Giannet, vice president of academic affairs and faculty development at Pasco-Hernando State College, said the new performing arts center on the Cypress Creek campus will offer a broad array of educational opportunities.

Gianett noted that the center will be a source of revenue for the college, too.

“We’ll have professional troupes, professional shows that we can bring in,” he said, and there will be opportunities for groups to rent the facility for events.

The theater also will provide another place for the school district to offer plays and other events.

Working together on this project has helped the district and state college develop a greater level of collaboration, said Gadd, who not only serves as the school district’s deputy superintendent, but also sits on the state college’s board.

The dual role offers a vantage point that allows him to see areas where the district and college can leverage the resources of the individual organizations, through collaboration.

Construction is expected to begin on the performing arts center around June of this year, and the project is expected to be completed by July of 2020, said Tony Rivas, associate vice president facilities management and administrative services for the state college.

O’ Farrell said a request is being made to the Florida Legislature for some additional funding for the project.

“One of the final pushes that we’re making this legislative session is for an additional $2.5 million,” he said.

“We had $15.5 million for the facility,” he explained.

Because of the partnership between the state college and the school district, the site for the arts center has been secured, and it is almost ready for construction, O’ Farrell said.

If additional money can be secured for this project, it would go to enlarge the interior space in the arts center’s foyer to accommodate breakfasts, receptions and community gatherings.

Published February 13, 2019

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