WESLEY CHAPEL - A plan to close Quail Hollow Elementary for at least two years as the school undergoes a massive renovation is meeting with a mixture of skepticism and resignation from parents. "My kids aren't happy so I'm not happy," said Tammy Gulley, mother of three students. "They love this school. This is their community. Now they are getting shifted half way across the county." Gulley, though, like many of the parents, is already making plans to take her children to visit their new school. In their case, that's Watergrass Elementary. Some Quail Hollow students will move to Wesley Chapel Elementary. The change begins in August with the start of the 2013-14 school year.Gulley said her oldest child, a fifth-grader, is moving on to Weightman Middle School anyway, so he is unaffected. "He's happy he gets to graduate before they close it," she said. Pasco County school district officials discussed plans for Quail Hollow and answered sometimes pointed questions Wednesday night in the school's media center, where parental concerns included busing, school starting times and how the children and their teachers will fit in at their new schools. Shady Hills Elementary also will close temporarily for renovations. Those students will be housed at Crews Lake Middle, which will become a K-8 school. A meeting for Shady Hills Elementary parents will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the school's media center, 18000 Shady Hills Road, Shady Hills. 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 construction-related disruptions, the district says. In Pasco, where a 1970s population boom fueled the need for more schools, the school district built three high schools, one middle school and five elementary schools using the Kelley concept. Quail Hollow Principal Michelle Berger said it probably didn't take educators long in the 1970s to realize the trendy open-classroom design worked better in theory than reality. "You can hear sounds from all around," she said. About two years ago, the school board began contemplating the need for major remodeling at the Kelley 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 district lacked the necessary money for the work, though, until voters in November renewed the Penny for Pasco sales tax that provides money to build, renovate or repair schools. "That's the reason we are able to remodel, refurbish this school," Superintendent Kurt Browning told the Quail Hollow parents. Quail Hollow's renovation is expected to cost about $8.5 million to $10 million, Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd said. As pricey as that sounds, it's still less than half the cost to build from scratch, he said. When the work is complete, students will move back to what is essentially a new school, he said. School district officials sought to tamp down rumors that Quail Hollow, which has 383 students, would never reopen. District planning director Chris Williams said the Quail Hollow attendance boundaries might be expanded after the renovation because the school's student capacity would increase. "We definitely will not tear it down," Gadd said. Gulley said that's not one of her concerns. "I think they will rebuild," she said. "It's just how quickly?" Fiorella Covais, mother of two children, said her family may have to make more use of school buses than in the past because of the longer trip to Watergrass Elementary. Her daughter Breanna, 7, is in second grade. Her son, Justin, 4, will enter kindergarten in August. Overall, Covais said she is accepting of the change, especially since her daughter seems fine with it. "I think the kids will adjust better than the parents will," Covais said. In preparing for the move to new schools, Berger said children will take their cues from the adults. "They will be excited if you are excited for them," she said. "If you are miserable, they will be miserable."
[email protected] (813) 371-1853 Twitter: @RBlairTBO