As Booker High School spearheads a three-year project to rebuild the school this month, so begins an initiative to preserve the school’s history.
The renovation kicks off with the demolition of one of the school’s oldest buildings — the former Amaryllis Park Elementary School — to make room for the first major change: the re-routing of Orange Avenue along the east side of campus.
“There will no longer be a road running through the campus and dividing it,” said Assistant Principal Joshua Leinweber, re-build liaison for the school. “The campus will be more unified and be seen as a whole school instead of separate buildings.”
According to Ernest DuBose, project manager for the School Board of Sarasota County, the key driver for this change is safety. The rerouting will eliminate the need for hundreds of students to cross Orange Avenue daily to attend their respective classes.
“Another fact is that, right now, with Orange Avenue bisecting the campus, it’s impossible to secure as a whole,” DuBose said. “With this move, we will be allowed to secure the perimeter of the campus from a land standpoint.”
Construction of the new campus buildings will commence in early 2011 and by the time the campus is completed in 2013, the more than 20 buildings will have been reduced to eight, and portables will be nonexistent.
There will be two main classroom buildings: a two-story building of approximately 100,000 square feet and a second one-story building of approximately 50,000 square feet.
“I think the awesome part is the revitalization of the school and community,” said Ernest DuBose, project manager at the School Board of Sarasota County. “The brand new buildings will instill and affirm a sense of pride within the staff.”
With this in mind, alumni, former staff members and those with a connection to Booker High School are invited to share their memories in videotaped interviews and contribute any artifacts or memorabilia they might have to become part of a permanent educational school museum. For information, call BHS at 355-2967 or the school district at 927-4009.
“As I’ve said throughout all of this, I’m more excited about the teaching and learning that are going to take place inside the new school,” said Principal Constance White-Davis. “The time has finally come.”
FAVORITE SCHOOL MEMORIES
Booker staff, alumni and students share their favorite school memories.
Constance White-Davis, principal
“I came from Fort Myers to play Booker in basketball. The Booker High School girls team beat everyone. They were the state champs. I remember all of the girls crying because we lost to Booker. I was the only girl not crying. I’ve always been in love with Booker, never knowing in high school that I would be principal.”
Edwina Oliver, assistant principal
“I had the first argument with the principal. Our (graduation) robes were purple and gold — our parents marched in purple and gold. Some of the kids wanted white. We told the principal we were going to call the NAACP if she didn’t keep the colors.”
Lem Andrews, college adviser
“I was once a basketball coach here and remember coming out of the gym alone every night after the 11 o’clock games when I had to do the ‘Battle of the Foxes.’ The custodians would take the trash out and the foxes would come out of the wooded area. One night, I couldn’t get to my car because they were out, so I went out the side door and jumped the gate. When I was getting ready to land, I looked down and there’s this fox! I can’t wait until the days when I don’t have to battle the foxes.
Dustin Morris, freshman at the University of Florida
“I wrote an article about the school-tax referendum vote after attending a Tiger Bay meeting at Michael’s On East. I was alarmed at what people were saying, so the founder of CYD (Community Youth Development) asked if I would write an editorial for the newspaper. We edited it a few times and I submitted it. I had no idea that it printed and remember walking into the art room — everyone started clapping.”
Andy Ng, senior
“I’ve gone to every Booker school. Even though the outside of the high school will change, the heart is still here.”
Justin Dortch, senior
“I came from a Northern one-building school where there was one way out and one way in. Here, you see the teachers arriving in the morning and you really feel welcome. You walk to class and on rainy days and everyone is huddling together. The school spirit is high — it’s something to be called a ‘Tornado.’”