Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tuesday's School Board Workshop

From SRQ Magazine's daily e-Newsletter:

[TALK] Riverview Debate Flares Up at School Board

BMK Architects presented six possibilities for the future of Riverview High School at a Sarasota County School Board workshop yesterday.

The discussion boiled down to whether the historic but dilapidated buildings designed by architect Paul Rudolph should be saved and rehabilitated or demolished and paved over. The discussion comes nearly a year after the school board began meeting on the issue. Since hiring BMK in September, the school board has veered in the direction of demolition. But earlier this spring a group of preservationists and architects known as Save Riverview convinced the board to consider incorporating the Rudolph buildings into the new campus. Meanwhile, parents and teachers at the school have said the buildings are moldy and don’t reflect the school’s instructional program. They want the school board to move forward with current plans for eliminating the Rudolph building after construction of the new campus is complete, which also happens to be the cheapest and fastest option. Both sides had an opportunity to speak at the workshop.

2006 Riverview graduate Andrew Stephens said students don’t care about the Rudolph structures and never will. Despite its many accomplishments, Stephens said his peers in the community consider Riverview a “ghetto school” because of its appearance. “Are we going to remain selfish for the sake of our own memories?” he asked, prompting an applause from others who support tearing the old buildings down.

Principal Linda Nook said the Rudolph buildings don’t meet either of the school’s two priorities for the long-awaited project: a campus based on multiple small learning centers and a single entry to the school to monitor student safety and security.

During an 18-minute presentation, members of Save Riverview said they aren’t advocating a full restoration of the Rudolph buildings but rather a rehabilitation that meets the needs of today’s students. “We do not expect the Riverview family to make sacrifices,” said architect Greg Hall. “We’re not asking you to take (the buildings) back to the 1950s.”

Although estimates provided by BMK show that saving the Rudolph buildings will cost at least $8 million more than demolishing them, Hall said those numbers are based on a complete restoration and could be scaled back as a rehabilitation project. Historic preservationist Lorrie Muldowney added that the buildings are eligible for state and federal grants that would also help make up the difference in price estimates.

“Passion surrounds this issue,” said Lee Byron, a former school board member speaking on behalf of Save Riverview. “I am not exaggerating when I say that the world as well as Sarasota is waiting for your decision.”

The school board will likely make a final decision about Riverview at its next meeting June 20.

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