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Spring Hill Elementary upgrades draw smiles
A spiffed-up Spring Hill Elementary includes a new cafeteria and kitchen.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published August 18, 2007
Yasmin Garcia, 33, heads for a classroom with her children Antonio, 8, Cristian, 5, and Yamiled, 6, during Spring Hill Elementary's open house on Thursday. Yamiled will start first grade, Antonio will be in the third grade and Cristian starts kindergarten this year.
[Keri Wiginton | Times]
[Keri Wiginton | Times]
Roy Adams listens as his mother, Mary Adams, talks to his new second-grade teacher, Bonnie Inmon (not pictured).
SPRING HILL -- Good things, it turns out, really do come to those who wait.
Last year, Spring Hill Elementary was the poster child for an overcrowded school system. Portable classrooms obscured the building from Mariner Boulevard, workers tore at the campus, and students ate lunch in their classrooms or under the hot sun.
On Thursday, families got their first glimpse of the new Spring Hill: a new cafeteria and multipurpose room, a full-service kitchen, 12 sparkling-new classrooms, and the promise of an end to quadruple-digit enrollments.
It was enough to make jaws drop with delight.
"It's awesome!" yelped fourth-grader Taylor Tenney. "Our cafeteria last year was our classroom or outside."
New principal Marvin Gordon and the school's longtime assistant principal, Carol Ellis, couldn't stop grinning.
"Look at the place, it looks wonderful," Ellis marveled. "The campus is clean, we don't have any construction."
"It looks great," agreed parent Denise Shoemaker. "We needed the extra space. The kids got tired of eating in their classrooms."
Last year, five first-grade classrooms had to double up in co-teaching teams of 30 children or more.
This year, the first grade gets the new classrooms.
"Last year it was a little tough," admitted teacher Melissa Matles. "But we made it through the year."
Teacher Karen Mancuso, who runs the school's community service program, coordinated a team effort to welcome families back. Vendors and community service organizations, from CiCi's Pizza to the Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County -- "everyone who helps our school" -- lined the walls of the new multipurpose room.
"Grandparents are here, everyone is here," Mancuso said. "This is their reaction: "Wow!' And the kids are as excited as the parents."
Not all of the improvements will be ready for this fall. Portable classrooms still line the front of the campus, and facilities director Roland "Bo" Bavota said he doesn't plan to move them until a district rezoning effort is complete.
But as it stands now, that plan would reduce Spring Hill Elementary's enrollment from 1,028 to 777 students in the fall of 2008. That would leave the school with more than enough room, and no need for portables.
"If the redistricting comes through we're going to remove probably all of those portables," Bavota said.
He bore much of the heat from angry parents at School Board meetings last year, and added some personal touches to the new classroom building: "Key West"-style shutters, some greenery, and an upbeat red paint job. Fixing up Spring Hill was at the top of his to-do list.
"It warms my heart just looking at it," Bavota said. "It feels great."
A parent escorting her children down that hallway of brand-new classrooms, smiling happily, summed up the general feeling: "We've waited a long time."