Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. Breaks Ground on Booker High School


SARASOTA – A groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of a two-year project to rebuild Booker High School has been scheduled for Jan. 26 at 9 a.m. at the school. The event will include presentations by community members, school district officials, students, representatives of city government, architects and contractors.

The $58-million project is scheduled to be completed in 2013. Although vertical construction is not yet under way, site work began in August to re-route Orange Avenue around the Visual and Performing Arts Theater. That change will unify the campus by allowing students to reach any building without having to cross a street.

Booker High School has been an important center of community life in North Sarasota for more than 50 years. For most of its history, the district added individual new structures to replace aging buildings or to respond to growth in student population. The current project was the first time school officials had an opportunity to develop a comprehensive design for a new school. The design of the new Booker High School incorporates the latest ideas in instruction, security and architecture. Planners also met with local residents to discuss how the new facility could have the most positive impact on their neighborhoods and continue to be a focal point for community pride.

The new facility will include five new buildings and major renovations to five others, consolidating the 38 buildings that now occupy the BHS campus. The school will have an initial capacity for 1,200 students. The core facilities such as the cafeteria and media center will be built to accommodate 1,600 students, so more classrooms can be added when needed. The new school will have 80 classrooms providing nearly 190,000 square feet of state-of-the art instructional space. The centerpiece will be a two-story main classroom building housing small communities of students with similar academic interests such as technology, mathematics, the arts, science or history.

Each group will study with a team of teachers in a module containing traditional classrooms, science labs, offices and counseling spaces. The plan minimizes movement across the campus and helps students feel more connected to their peers and their school. The new school also has been designed to keep the campus secure. It will be built around a central courtyard to enable school staff to easily monitor activity and access.

The rebuild promises to be another source of pride for the students and staff at BHS and for the community. Booker High earned an A grade from the Florida Department of Education this year, which was an improvement of three grades from last year. The A grade has been a significant boost to school pride and student confidence in their academic abilities. The new facility is expected to further advance the position of Booker High as a very high quality educational facility.

Booker High School is located at 3201 N. Orange Ave. in Sarasota. The groundbreaking ceremony will be on Orange Avenue opposite the Visual and Performing Arts Theater. Anyone attending the ceremony should enter the campus from the south via Orange Ave. from Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Further information is available by calling 941-927-4009.