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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Parents get sneak peek at AME construction plan

Before heading home for spring break, Anna Maria Elementary School students and parents received a computer CD-ROM video highlighting the need for a new Island school and featuring a look at the design plans for the pending construction of the new facilities.

The video CD was part of a Manatee County School Board initiative to document its current construction plans and projects.

AME Principal Kathy Hayes said the video tries to capture the history of the school as well as what the community has to look forward to in the future.

In the video, Hayes walks the viewer through the existing school as she points out how the more than 50-year-old structure has served the community well, yet where it has failed to hold up.

For example, when AME was constructed in the 1950s, media centers were not utilized in schools. As a result, AME's media center is housed in classroom space. In the new building, Hayes says, the media center will have more than three times the square footage. In addition, the media center will include an upgraded television production set and studio for the student-produced AME morning news show.

The video also shows how teachers have trouble regulating classroom temperatures, compete with noise from air conditioning units, lack of storage space and functional windows. Hayes says in the new building there will be a textbook storage room and walk-in storage closets in classrooms.

Hayes noted that when the new building is completed, all the portable classrooms will be gone and it will be the first time in years everyone will be under one roof.

The new building's traffic flow plan will also alleviate congestion on Gulf Drive since three times as many cars will fit in the car waiting loop.

"We have a very open campus in many ways, in and out and we sit on Gulf Drive, a very busy street. It's almost impossible for our staff and teachers to keep track of who is on campus," Hayes said. "In our new building, we'll still have an open campus but with one main entry. I think at times, a small Island community can have a false sense of security. It's critical we do all we can to have a safe school campus."

Hayes also pointed out the school's unique waterfront view and noted that the existing school sits as far away as possible from the waterfront. "Our new campus will be situated more ideally on the site with gorgeous waterfront views for teachers and students - what an inspiring place to learn and teach," said Hayes.

Landscape architect David Jones is featured in the video sharing the design team's opportunity to recreate a coastal landscape that would have originally occured on a barrier island for education and practical use at the school. "It gives us an opportunity to show students what is native on the Island," he said.

At the close of the video, Hayes walks the viewer through the design plans for the new building. On the first floor will be classrooms for kindergarten, first- and second-grades, a computer lab, kitchen and dining area. A breezeway takes you to the art and music classrooms and auditorium.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes will be located on the second floor, along with the media center.

The two-story building will be the focus of the first phase of construction and Hayes said she believes W.G. Mills Construction will begin the project in May, but the heavy equipment work required to lay the foundation, footers and walls will take place during the summer.

If construction is not delayed, Hayes anticipates it may be possible to move into the two-story building over the 2004 winter break and begin 2005 in new classrooms.

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