A group of volunteers showed up at Sanders Memorial STEAM Magnet School last week, eager to help the school gear up for its first day of classes as Pasco County’s first magnet school.
The Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce sent out a call for volunteers, and people responded.
There were chamber members, parents of children who will be attending the school, community residents and other community volunteers.
Pasco County School Board member Cynthia Armstrong was among those ready to get to work.
“We’re so excited about this school opening. It’s a long time coming, to have a magnet school in Pasco County,” Armstrong said.
“Seeing the outpouring of support for it — the number of students that applied to go to this school — just really lets us know that’s what the parents want, and we’re here to make sure that we offer the educational opportunities that they want for their students,” Armstrong added.
Sandy Graves, a member of the Central Pasco Chamber and a Land O’ Lakes resident, has a special place in her heart for Sanders.
That’s where she went to school for all but one year of elementary school, Graves said.
She said she’s excited about the opportunities awaiting children who will be attending the school, which will focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
Some parent volunteers were at the workday, too.
Nicole Bradshaw said her 5-year-old daughter, Emily, is just starting kindergarten.
She said her daughter has attended a voluntary kindergarten program that had a STEAM approach to education, and she’s thrilled that she’ll able to continue that approach to education.
“I like the immersive learning,” she said, noting that children are learning about the same themes, through different subject areas.
“When I saw they (Pasco County Schools) were opening a STEAM school, I jumped on it,” said Bradshaw, who lives near State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway.
She also likes the hands-on approach to learning.
“They need to get their hands dirty. They need to touch stuff and not just be learning from a book, or being recited to. They need to be in there and doing it,” she said.
Debra Wheeler and her 10-year-old daughter, Madison, were also there to volunteer.
Madison will be a fifth-grader and is excited about going to a new school.
It was a difficult choice, Debra Wheeler said, noting her daughter has attended Connerton Elementary until now.
“It was a big decision for us, because so many years we’ve been going to the same elementary school,” she said. “So, that was the debate: Do you stay with something consistent, or do you try something new?
“When we saw what Sanders was offering — you can’t pass that up,” she said, noting all three of her children will be attending new schools this year. One will be Sanders, another at Pine View Middle School and another at Land O’ Lakes High School.
During the work session, volunteers were scattered about the school, helping to sort and deliver student planners; stapling maps of the school together to help parents find their way around; putting on laptop covers, to protect the laptops; and helping to assemble shelves and sort books.
There was a sense of camaraderie, as the volunteers pitched in.
Sanders Principal Jason Petry welcomed the help.
“When Sandy (Graves) called me, she was very adamant about getting out here,” Petry said. “I love it.
“We came up with a list of things that could be done that could take a lot of stress off of us,” he said.
“It’s good for the community to be involved in the school,” he added, noting that Sanders has been in Land O’ Lakes since 1948.
The school has been closed for five years. The school district had planned to renovate and reopen it sooner, but the economy tanked and those plans were put on hold.
As the school reopens this year, it looks like a brand new school and is equipped with the latest in technology, has bright furniture, and is designed with teachers and students in mind.
Assistant Principal Kelly Edwards is excited about being at Sanders.
The school has many special features, including collaboration areas which are designed to foster collaboration in learning.
“It looks like you stepped into MOSI (the Museum of Science and Industry),” Edwards said. “It looks like you stepped into 2030,” she said.
School board member Armstrong is delighted by the community’s enthusiasm for Sanders.
“STEAM, all the way!” Armstrong said.
Sanders Open House
What: Open House
Where: Sanders Memorial STEAM Magnet, 5126 School Road, Land O’ Lakes
When: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., on Aug. 20
Why: To give people a chance to tour Pasco County Schools’ first magnet school, and to see the school’s new buildings and renovated existing buildings.
Published August 12, 2015