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Pasco parents invited to discussion on school renovations

WESLEY CHAPEL - School officials will field questions from parents at two meetings to discuss the proposed temporary closures of Quail Hollow Elementary and Shady Hills Elementary, the Pasco County school district said Wednesday. The two schools will undergo massive renovations beginning in the 2013-14 academic year and district officials say the students need to be moved elsewhere during construction. The meeting for Quail Hollow parents will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the school's media center, 7050 Quail Hollow Blvd., Wesley Chapel. The meeting for Shady Hills parents will be at 6 p.m. March 12 in the school's media center, 18000 Shady Hills Road, Shady Hills.
Under the current proposal, students in Quail Hollow's southern attendance boundary would attend Wesley Chapel Elementary. Those in the northern boundary would attend Watergrass Elementary. Shady Hills students would move to Crews Lake Middle, which temporarily would become a K-8 school. Superintendent Kurt Browning and several other district staff members will be at the meetings to explain the proposals and answer questions. Both Quail Hollow and Shady Hills were built in the 1970s and are often referred to as Kelley schools because they were designed by architect Eoghan Kelley. The schools used a windowless, open-classroom concept that was popular throughout the country at the time and harkened to the days of one-room schoolhouses. District officials cite that open design as a reason students need to be moved elsewhere during the renovations. The open floor plans would expose the children to construction noise, dust and other disruptions, the district says. In Pasco, a 1970s population boom fueled the construction of three high schools, one middle school and five elementary schools using the Kelley concept. School districts in Seminole, Orange, Alachua, Columbia, Flagler, Sarasota and Volusia counties also built Kelley schools. Before long, though, districts started re-evaluating the open-classroom design. About two years ago, the Pasco school board began contemplating major renovations at the nine schools, which aren't up to current building codes and don't mesh well with 21st century academic needs. The other Kelley schools are Land O' Lakes High, Hudson High, Zephyrhills High, Bayonet Point Middle, Cypress Elementary, Northwest Elementary and Anclote Elementary. The Kelley schools have a fairly recognizable architectural footprint. In the elementary schools, an open area in the center of the building serves as the media center and is the link between the classroom areas and the administrative offices. The classrooms aren't separated by interior walls. One of the ideas behind the open-classroom concept was that students, working with a team of teachers, could be divided based on their skill level in a particular subject, rather than by grade level. They could move easily from one part of the classroom module to the next, depending on the work they were doing. The downsides, though, include the noise and distractions that happen when four or five classrooms are grouped together with nothing but open space between them. "The kids are able to tune things out better, I think, than the adults are," Quail Hollow Principal Michelle Berger said in a 2011 interview. The Kelley middle and high school designs are somewhat similar. Straight in from the entrance is a large common area. Hallways branch off from there into circular areas where classrooms are located.

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