tampabay.com

Selection of school architect at first stage

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published February 14, 2007


INVERNESS - The School Board on Tuesday took another step toward what will likely amount to millions of dollars in needed renovations, remodeling and reconstruction at the district's two most needy school facilities.

The board approved a process to select an architect or multiple architects to make recommendations on how to improve aged and inadequate facilities at Crystal River Primary School and Crystal River High School.

The architect or architects will be charged with working up a list of at least three options for each school; the options could include total replacement for a school. In each option, portable classrooms would have to be eliminated from the campuses as part of the plan.

The plan options would be presented to the School Board at a meeting with all costs for initial phases and ultimate capacities listed for comparison purposes.

Advertising for architectural services will happen later this month, with the board considering a selection committee's recommendation in April. After the architect or architects complete the presentation on the three options for each school, the board will consider a contract with the firm or firms to design whichever option they approve for each school.

Board members talked about the need for some of the selection committee members to visit schools constructed by the firms under consideration. "We want confidence that we don't have another Homosassa," said board member Linda Powers. She was referring to the construction flaws that surfaced at Homosassa Elementary School in 2004.

Board member Pat Deutsch-man, who is a selection committee member, said she believes committee members will visit examples of the architects' work but the committee should not be required to do that. The critical issue is making sure the firms selected have the background and depth to do the necessary work, Deutschman argued.

Last year, the School Board paid a consultant to evaluate all the district's school facilities. The two Crystal River schools ranked lowest in the rating process.

In other action:

- The board approved the calendar for the 2007-08 school year. The approved calendar has school starting for teachers with a professional service day on Aug. 13 and for students on Aug. 20, 2007. The last day of the school year will be June 6, 2008, for students and June 9 for teachers.

- The board set a public hearing for the April board meeting, at which members will vote to keep school attendance boundaries the same for the 2007-08 school year as they are this year. Members will vote whether to direct staff to begin a comprehensive boundary study for elementary schools for consideration in 2008. The new elementary school under construction in Citrus Springs is expected to open for the 2008-09 year.

- The board voted to sell property donated by Homosassa resident Karl Schultz through a real estate broker. Schultz agreed to give the 1.5 acres to the school district for annual scholarships for Homosassa Elementary students unable to pay for college or vocational training.

- The board was slated to discuss the STAR teacher bonus plan but the item was pulled from Tuesday's agenda.

Last week three-quarters of the district's teachers rejected the plan, which would provide pay bonuses for the top 25 percent of teachers based on student learning gains.

Teachers union president Deborah Platt brought the vote count to the board on Tuesday and noted that the vote was really a vote against the legislative mandated bonus plan.

Board members congratulated the teachers for voicing their opinion on the controversial plan.

The vote means that the district is at impasse with the union and that issue will come before the board again in a special meeting Feb. 27.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendt@sptimes.com.