VENICE, Fla. - More than 41,000 students in Sarasota County were back to school on Monday, and in south Sarasota County, some of them are returning to new facilities.
Venice high school is in year four of a nearly $80 million rebuild, and the old sprawling campus is reduced now to just a few high-tech buildings.
There’s a new front office, new media center, and also a new gym still under wraps, classrooms, and a courtyard. Principal Jack Turgeon is happy to say goodbye for the most part to the mix of students and building. “Working through all of the issues that come with construction, the construction men and women we work with have been fantastic. Our students have endured it."
Students like senior Tyler Cain have known only of construction there for the past four years. "Now it is awesome. We have a fantastic cement sidewalk, patio, air conditioned buildings. No rain on us."
There are all sorts of new technology in the media center, and specialized classrooms for things like culinary arts, too.
Teacher Cyndi Hamilton is now working out of the new art wing. She says the little things also help. "Love it. We were in portables last year. The kids had to go to an outside well. I would say go fetch some water."
In recent years, places like the cafeteria and other classrooms across the campus were opened, resulting in a campus before construction with more than 50 buildings. When all is said it done, the campus will have just five. "Having all the classrooms in one big building is really great. It is nice and consolidated."
Building up also makes things safer. There will only be one way in and one way out of campus. Dozens of cameras catch every move
Staff and students are excited for a new school year and a new school. "It really opens up to having a beautiful facility all coming together. One area left to add next year."
And that last phase, still under construction, is a multi-million dollar performing arts hall. In fact, the city of Venice is throwing in nearly $8 million towards construction. It will be used by the whole community when complete by the beginning of school next year.
And it all reportedly came in under budget. $100 million was the initial projection; it turned out to be around $90 million after final plans, with finals costs ending up around $78 million.