Design approved for middle school
By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
DUNEDIN -- The design of a $19.8-million replacement for Dunedin Highland Middle School was approved this week by the Pinellas County School Board.
The plans are similar to ones used for the $18.6-million recently-completed reconstruction of Azalea Middle School in St. Petersburg.
"We're working on trying to fast-track that project," Tony Rivas, director of facilities for Pinellas County Schools, said about work on Dunedin Highland. "Ideally we would start this summer, but there are a few hurdles that have to be crossed before then."
The new school could to be finished as early as the fall of 2003.
But before the work can begin, Rivas said, permits are needed from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the state Department of Environmental Protection. Correcting drainage problems on the property at 896 Union St. also could push back the expected construction start.
The plan, meanwhile, is to relocate the middle school to the northwest corner of its sprawling, largely undeveloped 40-acre campus at Patricia Avenue and Union Street.
To avoid the inconvenience of moving the 1,225 students around during construction, the new school will be built where the athletic fields are now.
"It's going to be a very good-looking school," Rivas said. "I believe it's a well received school and probably something I would expect the city of Dunedin and its residents will be pleased with."
Relocating the middle school also could give the school district more options in future construction projects. One school in particular that could benefit is Dunedin Elementary.
School officials have been pondering the possibility of moving the elementary school, which is blocks away, to the empty spot on the corner of Union Street and Patricia Avenue.
The 70-year-old elementary school's current site is adjacent to Grant Field, home of the Blue Jays' spring games, and near the city's library and the Dr. William E. Hale Senior Activity Center which opened Thursday.
But it will likely be years before any decision about the elementary school is made.
"It's in the plans, but there is probably going to be more to it," said Rivas. "There is probably going to be a need for more funding as well as we will need to decide how to approach it."
"But it is something that is expected to be done," he added.
Though it is some three years off, another north-county school construction project in the works is at Safety Harbor Middle School.
The county had planned to renovate the school, but school officials about five years ago realized they could build a new school for about the same price, $18-million, starting over made more sense.
The last renovation to the school was in the early 1990s when the school system spent $200,000 to add science and technology labs.
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