Editor's Note: In honor of the new school year, here’s a look at some of the faces of schools throughout Sarasota. To see more profiles of education, please go to the Sarasota City Life page.
Taylor Stein loves the feeling of starting something new. As Riverview High School student body president, Stein will be the first person to walk across the stage and graduate from the renovated school, leading the way for her fellow students — the class of 2010.
“I don’t know what it’s like or what it’s going to be like,” Stein said. “I’m a little nervous because I have to speak, and I won’t be looking ahead to see how to walk. But at the same time, I’m really excited.”
It’s not so much the new building, but rekindling the old school spirit that has Stein so pumped. Although she hasn’t yet stepped foot inside the new school, she still knows Riverview’s potential, and she’s ready to show it off.
“The spirit has always been there,” Stein said. “You would know it if you’d been to a Riverview game. We’re super school-spirited all the way, and we’re going to make this year crazy by bringing the whole Riverview essence into the new school.”
One way Stein has a handle on this is the way she gets students involved. Communication, she says, is important. Flyers don’t always get a message to everyone involved, but social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy.
“You have access to the entire grade,” Stein says. “This is especially important during senior year, because some kids go to MCC (Manatee Community College) for dual-enrollment. You can go online and send a short message like ‘Prom tickets tomorrow,’ or ‘Don’t forget to pick up caps and gowns today.’ I’m huge on getting everyone involved, not just a select group of people.”
Stein’s sister, Madison, will be a freshman at Riverview this fall.
“Having someone so close to me coming to the school gives me an idea of how they feel, whether they feel welcome through tours and orientation,” Stein said. “It’s going to be like a first day for seniors, too, because many of them have never seen the new school.”
You could say Stein is prepared. Or, you could just call her what she is — a perfectionist. Laughing over the phone (her summer job is working as a waitress in New York) she agrees.
“I was born in September, which makes me a Virgo,” Stein says. “Everyone makes fun of me because Virgos are supposed to be perfectionists and overachievers.”
Even at 6 years old, Stein was setting goals for herself. She wanted to have a lemonade stand but, instead, she wanted to sell limeade.
“I wanted to hand-squeeze limes and stand in front of the neighborhood and sell it,” Stein said. “I got on the news and thought, ‘I can do this for the rest of my life.’ My parents were supportive. They said, ‘Go for it, Taylor, sell limeade forever.’”
Stein said she’s feeling motivated about her senior year and can’t wait for school to begin. After visiting a long list of colleges over the summer, she already knows her first day back will be comfortable because she feels connected to the staff and to the school itself. In colleges, she’s looking for the same Riverview I-belong-here feeling and thinks the University of Virginia could be the right choice.
“I didn’t think it was realistic before, when I saw the kids who had graduated coming in and talking to teachers during winter and spring break,” she says. “It really made an impact on me. I love these teachers and already want to come back and go out to lunch.”
Although the school is new, and she won’t be walking through the same halls as before, the feelings will still be there — and so will her class ring.
“I got it as a sophomore and haven’t taken it off since,” Stein said. “I’m really proud to have Riverview on my hand. It defines me. I can’t ever imagine taking it off, because it reminds me how important school is to me.”
When the Riverview High School football team moved its weight equipment over to the new high school, their mouths dropped open in collective awe.
Everything is new. Principal Linda Nook even has signal bars on her cell phone.
When Nook came on board in 2000, staff members were just starting to discuss renovations for the high school. It’s taken nine years to get to this point. Nook says it’s exciting how much input Riverview staff and the community have put into the design, a school that replicates the designs of architect Paul Rudolph.
“We wanted a center plaza,” Nook said. “But this is bigger and more magnificent than we thought. It really is a privilege.”
The look is glass, open-air and light, a result that’s both pleasing to the eye and functional. A major difference is that the new school is designed to support instructional and extracurricular programs. Before, Nook said staff had to take the existing structure and figure out how to make it work, like the time a home-economics room had to be converted into an agri-science aquaculture facility. Now, spaces are designed to meet instructional needs.
“We walk around the school and say, ‘That’s what we’ve envisioned,’” Nook said. “Music, aquaculture, engineering, career center … everything is what we hoped it would be. We may have planned the features, but the finished project is even better.”
By the numbers
120 — Number in millions of dollars of the approximate cost of the construction project
532,000 — Total square footage of the new building
2,535 — Number of registered students
2,200 — Number of seats in the new gymnasium
1,100 — Number of seats in the new auditorium
72 — Number of classrooms for English, math, social studies and world languages
19 — Number of science classrooms
12 — Number of career- and technical-education classrooms
7 — Number of small learning communities
7 — Number of music classrooms
6 — Number of Exceptional Student Education classrooms
5 — Number of art classrooms
5 — Number of physical education classrooms
2 — Number of drama classrooms
2 —Number of JROTC classrooms
2 — Number of reading program classrooms
1 — Number of English classroom for speakers of other languages
1 — Number of daycare facilities