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District firms up plans for school

By ROBERT KING

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County's fourth public high school was named Tuesday, and there was some good news -- the School Board may have more money for its construction than earlier expected.

The new school, to open in 2002 near the Hernando County Airport, will be called Nature Coast High School or Nature Coast Technical High School.

A committee of parents, teachers and students came up with the Nature Coast theme, the name of the mascot (Sharks) and the school colors -- Carolina blue, black and white.

The School Board, which must approve the name, liked the ring of Nature Coast. But members also are leaning toward adding the word "Technical" to reflect the school's vocational and technical emphasis -- something that appealed to voters in 1998 when they approved a local half-cent sales tax to pay for the school.

That sales tax was expected to generate $21.1-million and, along with another $12.7-million in state lottery money, was to cover the $33.8-million original estimated cost of the building.

But Superintendent John Sanders told School Board members Tuesday that, by an estimate made last month, the sales tax is performing far ahead of expectations. There could be more than $39-million in revenue available for the school.

That was good news, considering the "ideal" school that planners envision would cost more than $40-million. That school would have room for 1,527 students.

The more realistic model now being considered was based on $34-million in revenue and leaves out one classroom wing, the outdoor athletic stadiums, a theater-auditorium and a music building. Its capacity would be 1,302 students.

Sanders warned that the School Board shouldn't be too quick to spend the extra revenue for its ideal school.

For now, he considers the $39-million projection to be a "soft" estimate. The number won't really be firm for another year, he said.

"That ($39-million estimate) is a possibility. I don't really think we ought to bank on it," Sanders said. "I'd hate for us to get out on that limb and have it sawed off behind us."

Board Chairman Jim Malcolm said the School Board would have to prioritize how the extra revenue should be spent.

He would favor adding the classroom wing.

It is also possible that, given the fatter sales-tax revenues, part of the lottery money could be diverted for a new elementary school that may be needed within four years.

But Tizzy Schoelles, who has been selected as the high school's first principal, suggested that the band room might be a good choice for the first dose of extra revenue. Otherwise, the lack of a soundproof room could make it difficult to have a band, she said.

The School Board settled one lingering issue Tuesday -- the look of the school's roof.

Board member Sandra Nicholson had been advocating a metal roof with a steep pitch, a design she says will make the building most waterproof. But that design would cost nearly $2-million more than the original flat roof design.

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