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Crystal River High plans on hold

By EDDY RAMIREZ
Published March 24, 2007


Crystal River High School will put plans for major renovations on hold until an architect identifies the scope and cost of the work that must be done to improve the run-down school.

Meanwhile, construction on the new elementary school in Citrus Springs is ahead of schedule. School Board members and district officials say they are pleased with the builder's work.

Earlier this year, Crystal River High parents and the administration discussed replacing the school's outdated science classrooms with a new wing of portable classrooms made of concrete while an architect conducted a review of the school.

An earlier study by a consulting firm found that the school requires major repairs in order to support educational programs and meet the learning needs of students. The firm recommended hiring an architect to conduct a feasibility study and determine the best course of action: renovate or rebuild.

School Board members were appalled during a tour of Crystal River High last year. Board members found chemistry labs with poor ventilation, inadequate water pressure and outdated equipment.

But after getting an estimate from the company that makes the concrete classrooms last month, principal Pat Simon and district officials agreed to shelve plans for replacing the science labs for now.

"We just decided that this is potentially a very expensive project and it's not worth trying to jump into something quick without having enough information about where we're headed," said Mike Mullen, the district's executive director of support services.

The cost of the project was about $2-million -higher than anticipated -though neither Mullen nor Simon could recall the exact figure. They attributed the higher cost to the popularity of "concretables," as the classrooms are known. The school's order also called for custom-made science labs, not the traditional bare-bones classrooms.

The school must now wait while the district chooses an architect to conduct the feasibility study.

Once the School Board agrees with the choice, it could take up to six months for the architect to make a recommendation.

The board will then decide whether to rebuild or renovate.

According to the consulting group's estimate, renovating Crystal River High will cost $19-million, as opposed to $66-million to replace it.

Mullen said the district has set aside $4-million that had been earmarked for new science classrooms. Some of that money will now be used to hire the architect who will conduct the feasibility study. The remainder will go toward the project.

Flanked by parents and staff members, Simon is calling on the board to make the project a priority and move quickly.

While board members consider what do to with the high school, they appear happy with the progress being made at the new elementary school.

The district is more stringent about school construction since the flawed Homosassa Elementary construction project. Mullen said the builder and architect meet with district officials on a weekly basis to discuss the project. A project manager from the district office visits the construction site every day. He takes photographs and reviews inspection reports, which he turns over to the district every month.

So far, crews have poured the foundation for the school's cafeteria and started work on the walls. Construction began in December.

Mullen said the school, which is expected to come in below $21-million, will be "substantially" completed in February. When it opens in August 2008, it will be able serve up to 810 students.

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at eramirez@sptimes.com or 860-7305.