MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County Public Schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal hopes to resurrect plans to build a new Manatee Technical Institute campus adjacent to Braden River High School.
But this time — following a legal battle between the district, nearby homeowners and Manatee County — McGonegal will ask Manatee County School Board members to approve placement of the facility along State Road 70 frontage rather than on a 46-acre tract behind Braden River on Caruso Road.
McGonegal will take his request to board members during their Dec. 14 meeting at the School Administrative Building, 215 Manatee Ave. W. At that time, the superintendent also will request authorization to have an architect begin a master plan for the 195-acre parcel on which the site and Braden River High sit. The plan also would include an elementary, middle or K-8 school to the north of the Pirates’ campus on the 46-acre spot originally proposed for MTI’s new campus.
“The circumstances between what (the district proposed) three years ago and now have changed dramatically,” McGonegal said. “We’re not growing by 1,200 students a year anymore, and the property value has declined. The biggest piece of this is there are no students zoned to go to MTI. I really think having it on State Road 70 is going to be a great marketing tool for us.”
Once constructed, the facility would almost completely replace the existing MTI campus on 34th Street West in Bradenton and be about the same square footage, McGonegal said.
The superintendent said he has been working on the project since last January, shortly after assuming his role as superintendent. School board members had resolution of the item at the top of their “to-do” list, and McGonegal began looking through every file, watching every recording of public hearings and talking to people involved in the project.
“I wanted to start from scratch and really find out about the project and what was going on,” McGonegal said.
McGonegal noted he also has a key piece of information former superintendent Dr. Roger Dearing did not have when he was working on the project — there are 9,000 acres of developable land within a five-mile radius of the site.
That alone shows the area will need more schools, and McGonegal hopes one day to place an elementary or middle school or a K-8 school on the property north of Braden River High.
“It won’t be today, and it won’t be tomorrow, but somewhere down the road, we’re going to need schools in the area,” he said.
Braden River Principal Jim Pauley said he was happy with the news that plans for MTI are moving forward, noting the high school would have an opportunity to create educational partnerships with MTI, such as having MTI’s culinary students work in the cafeteria.
“We, as a school, have been all for (MTI coming here) from the beginning,” Pauley said. “It gives our kids an advantage. There’s a lot of pluses. We’re pleased that they are going to move forward and finally get MTI (here).”
The school board has been seeking a new home for MTI since 2002.
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Download a PDF of McGonegal's plan by clicking here.