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Children's Home may donate land for school

The home on Old Memorial Highway is willing to give the school district land if the elementary school includes a special ed center.

By LOGAN D. MABE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2002

The home on Old Memorial Highway is willing to give the school district land if the elementary school includes a special ed center.

TAMPA -- After cruising the west Hillsborough real estate market for more than a year, school district officials have found what they hope will be a viable site for a new elementary school.

District property manager Jill Lemons is negotiating a deal with the Children's Home on Old Memorial Highway that would give school officials 15 to 20 acres on the home's 88-acre Town 'n Country property.

If an agreement is reached, Elementary School "U" would serve about 950 students and would include an "exceptional center," where about 50 Children's Home students would attend.

"This is an ideal partnership property," Lemons said. "It would be a nice opportunity for mainstreaming the children (from the Children's Home), who currently spend part of their day at Parkhill. This way, they'll be on the same campus."

Parkhill is the Children's Home's current special education center, housed in a collection of old cottages.

Children's Home executive director Gerard Veneman said the school is willing to swap the land for the special education center the district will add to the elementary school campus.

"We would transfer somewhere between 15 and 20 acres of land to (the school district) and they would own that as long as it was used exclusively for elementary education purposes," Veneman said.

The school, which could open as early as August 2004, would ease overcrowding at Baycrest, Lockhart, Lowry and Westchase elementary schools. More importantly, it would end busing of students from the Timberlane and Colonial Coach neighborhoods across town to Lockhart.

"I'm totally elated," said Timberlane activist Carlton Lewis, who has lobbied for a neighborhood school for a decade. "This is fantastic. Our children were bused for years, and now they'll have a true neighborhood school to go to."

Veneman said Children's Home officials are glad to help out.

"The real value is to the kids that are within walking distance, and the parents that are within driving distance," Veneman said. "Instead of kids spending long periods of time on the bus or in a car, they'll be learning or playing and having better childhoods."

For information

The school district will have a public workshop about the school site from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at Braulio Alonso High School, 8302 Montague St.

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