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Gene Witt upgrades thrill administrators

Renovations of two buildings were completed for the new school year while construction on an addition continues.

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When Gene Witt Elementary School teachers walked into Building 2 and Building 6 on Aug. 3, they were awestruck.

Renovations of the two buildings were completed July 31, just in time for employees to return to school Aug. 3 and students Aug. 17. The renovations included a new roof, ductwork, security cameras, ceilings, insulation and lighting.

“What’s nice to me is they look like a brand new building, and that should be exciting,” said Jane Dreger, the director of construction services for the School District of Manatee County.

Building 2 houses kindergarten and first grade, and Building 6 is for fourth and fifth graders.

Gene Witt Principal David Marshall said no mold was found in the buildings. Possible mold growth was a concern for dozens of parents last school year.

“They took everything out, and we saw all the way through the ceiling and insulation, and there was no mold growing anywhere,” Marshall said.

Not only were the buildings renovated, but the classrooms received upgrades as well. Each classroom now has a new nickel Promethean board, which provides an interactive display for teachers to use in the classroom. There is more cabinetry for storage and cubbies for students to use. Classrooms also have no-touch lights that will turn on when people enter the classrooms and turn off when they leave, which Marshall said is perfect because it’s one less surface for someone to touch during COVID-19.

“We have gone from a school that was in need of repair to a school that is ready to take on the challenges and needs of the students for the future,” Marshall said.

Now the district is working on the new eight-classroom addition, which will provide room for about 144 student stations. The addition is separated from the other buildings on campus, so there is no disruption to student learning or activities while work progresses until its Dec. 17 expected completion date, Dreger said.

So far, the addition is in the structure phase, meaning the concrete tie beams have been poured, masonry walls are up, and the slab is poured, Dreger said.

Once the addition is completed, the school will be able to relocate students into the new addition, so renovations can be done on Building 3, followed by Building 5.

Although the addition’s eight classrooms will be 825 square feet, which is smaller than the other classrooms on campus that are 1,050 square feet, Marshall said there will be plenty of room for students to social distance and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines if they are still in place next semester.

Marshall said he looks forward to the project’s completion, which is expected to be done in summer 2022, because it means more students will be able to attend the school.

“Right now, the school is closed to hardship because we don’t have any room,” he said. “In the future, as the community continues to grow, we’ll be able to accept more students and provide an education to those that want to attend and continue the great tradition we have here.”


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