ST. PETERSBURG — In a recent meeting to discuss the design of a brand-new Melrose Elementary School, it was evident that it is a community project all the way.
Clinton Herbic, the Pinellas County School District’s associate superintendent for operational services, said there have been earlier meetings and community surveys dating back to a year ago about the design plans for the new Melrose.
“It was apparent from the staff and the community that they wanted the school to have an identity,” said Herbic.
One of the identities they wanted the school to have was based upon the concept of the journalism magnet, Herbic said. Another idea was a “dual-use space” that members of the community could use during school hours and also in the evenings, for meetings or assemblies.
Herbic said they put those community ideas into the proposal and asked the architects to come up with designs, and were pleased with the concept that architect Ted Williamson of Williamson Dacar Associates came up with. Herbic explained that Williamson will still be busy collecting more information from the community before going to the drawing board to come up with an ultimate design.
At the same time a construction management firm will be working closely with the architects during the process, and this firm will also hold community meetings with the residents who live close to the school and address such concerns as traffic, noise and overall impact.
“We all know that construction causes issues in the neighborhood,” he said, “but we want to make it as pleasant and as calm and peaceful for everyone as we can.”
Williamson said that during construction, the school district does not want students to be moved off site. He explained that it would be a “phase construction” that would take place at different times at various areas of the school grounds, so students can still attend the school.
Williamson went over rudimentary plans for the school, including points of entry, play areas, the internal courtyard and the location of the community center.
“This is just our initial conceptual idea of what it would be like,” he said, stressing that the design could change after all the feedback from the school and input from the community is in.
Rendering, New Melrose Elementary
Since the journalism program is an integral part of the school, Williamson described his plans for a corridor called “Story Lane” where students can exhibit their written work.
“Nothing builds more confidence in a student than showing off their work,” he said, adding that he wants to promote an atmosphere where “learning is everywhere in the school, not just in the classroom.”
Gretchen Letterman, Journeys in Journalism Program Coordinator, said she is pleased with the emphasis on journalism and “Story Lane.”
“However, I want to make sure that we are also making way in the building for 21st century kinds of multimedia and journalism operations,” she added. “It’s no longer the guys with the visors and the sleeve rings working on newsprint.”
When Pastor Martin Rainey expressed concern over potentially contaminated soil on the construction site, Herbic said he was working with the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection to come up with a work plan for the site.
Williamson added that according to the environmental engineer of the construction site, that there is more than two feet of clean soil in most places on the site above a protective liner. This liner can be broken with a “surgical approach” to build what has to be built on that spot, and then restored with another protective liner.
Herbic underscored the importance of the “wrap around services” feature of the school, a space that can be used for a variety of purposes. Principal Nikita Reed explained that these services could include showers, food pantry, washers and driers and even medical and dental assistance for members of the community who need them.
“We will partner with some of our doctors, our dentist, our optometrists,” she said. “We want all that in our school.”