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Tohopekaliga High set for June 2018 open

Posted on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Despite the recent weather issues, the School District of Osceola County’s largest and most comprehensive construction project to date remains on budget and should open on time.
Tohopekaliga High School, slated to open next year on

News-Gazette Photo/ken jackson
Tohopekaliga High School is being built to teach up to 3,000 students in STEM-related fields.

Boggy Creek Road between Simpson Road and the Austin-Tindall Sports Complex, is being built to teach up to 3,000 students in STEM-related fields in order to create a workforce in an area where the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center will be seeking skilled science and tech workers.
Ground broke on the $75.6 million project last October, and after nearly a year, seven of the eight buildings that will make up the high school (a middle school is also planned for the property in the future) are out of the ground and topped off.
Osceola hasn’t opened a high school in 10 years. The last three (Liberty in 2007, Harmony in 2004 and Celebration in 2003) were built off the same basic plan. But, “Toho High” won’t be a basic school, so it came with unique blueprints, strategies and challenges.
It’s all slated to be ready on Aug. 19, 2018 when the 2018-19 school year begins.
“We hope to turn some of the classroom buildings early so they can be prepped before the school year starts,” said Eric Dodson, the building executive for Gilbane, the construction management company tasked with delivering the new-age campus to the district.
The gymnasium, administration building, media center and cafeteria will front three three-story classrooms in the back of the 55-acre campus. The school is being built with the future middle school in mind — for instance, the cafeteria is being built big enough to serve both schools with an Internet café, indoor and outdoor serving areas, separate areas for serving and paying lines and seating and fully connected and integrated culinary arts space.
The classroom buildings will be connected by covered bridges, and some spaces will have multiple purposes. For example, the auditorium lobby will be used as a testing facility when the performing arts center is not hosting shows, and the library will feature independent teaching and testing suites and skylights for natural lighting.
Superintendent Debra Pace and THS Principal David Phelps, who came in from Oregon to lead the new school and is already on site, have been heavily involved in the design and building processes. They were on hand for a rough hard-hat tour of the site Monday, and Pace couldn’t hide a few “wow” moments, like pointing out where the “very pretty courtyard” will be.
“We knew this was coming so we could save and pay as we go, instead of taking out big bonds to pay for it,” she said.
Phelps was able to explain the campus’ nuances every bit as well Monday as the construction managers.
“This has been a fantastic experience,” he said. “I’ve been able to share my ideas on traffic flow and look at how the spaces are used. It’s been really fun working from the ground floor of a place that will open in less than a year.”


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