New technology brings a world of change at school
First-day glitches don't put a damper on new High Point Elementary in Clearwater.
By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007
CLEARWATER - Ask library information specialist Betty Williams for a tour of her new media center and her eyes light up.
There's the quiet reading nook she now has space for, the new cherry and birch reading tables and a mobile, interactive display called a SMART board that can be wheeled to different areas.
The media center at the new High Point Elementary School was just one of the changes students encountered on their first day back to school Tuesday.
The center, like much of the rest of the school, was still a work in progress Tuesday, with books that needed to be shelved and a circulation desk that wasn't fully up and running.
In the front office, staffers tried to keep up with incoming calls despite having only one working phone. But minor glitches like these are expected on the first day of school, especially in a new building, said principal Kevin Gordon.
"It takes time for all that stuff to come online. That's the biggest challenge," Gordon said.
Billed as a state-of-the-art facility, each classroom in the new, 95,200-square-foot school is equipped with a touch-sensitive SMART board that replaces traditional chalkboards. Teachers can communicate with the boards through laptop computers on their desks.
Wireless microphones allow teachers to talk to students at the back of the room without shouting.
"Hopefully, the new technology will translate to greater student engagement, which will lead to higher student achievement," Gordon said.
Third-grader Alexis Gonzalez, 10, voiced his approval of the new building. "I like it because it has new desks and new boards. It looks cool," he said.
Several students said they liked the two-level design. With upper grades housed on the upper level, students said it was like a rite of passage to attend classes on the second floor.
"I'm in 5th grade and I get to be upstairs," 10-year-old Kelly Carnahan said with pride.
Rex Clifton, 46, who sent four children through the old High Point and now has a daughter in kindergarten, said the new facility is a vast improvement.
"It's much better. I like the space, the design and the security," he said.
The new building was designed by Hoffman Architects of Tarpon Springs and constructed by Skanska USA Building Inc. for $21.3-million.
The school has more than 40 classrooms, an art lab, computer lab, multipurpose room with a stage, as well as the state-of-the-art media center.
The new school sits to the east of the old school, which was originally built in 1958.
The new High Point Elementary School is just east of the old school. The new address is 5921 150th Ave. N, Clearwater.
$21.3M Cost of construction of new school
$274,270 Cost of construction of original school, which opened in 1958
95,200 square feet of new school
31,640 square feet of original school
624 Current enrollment
348 Enrollment in 1958
Sources: Pinellas County Schools and A Tradition of Excellence Pinellas County Schools: 1912-1987