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Funding Still Needed For Starke Elementary Repairs

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Starke Elementary's doors are locked after a mold outbreak that forced the school to close.
Starke Elementary's doors are locked after a mold outbreak that forced the school to close.

Workers toiled inside Starke Elementary on Thursday to make sure the school is safe for students when it opens after spring break in 2014, following a mold outbreak.

Parents have asked about the possibility of rebuilding Starke Elementary School, which closed Aug. 23, instead of absorbing the $2 million for repairs, Bradford County School District spokesman Brian Graham said.

Construction of a new school would cost up to $30 million, Graham said, and that’s not in the budget. The district is still working to support the $2 million to fund repairs.

About $850,000 is still needed, Graham said.

“(Where the money will come from) has yet to be determined, but we will get the best deal for taxpayers,” he added.

The operation is on schedule and should have Starke Elementary’s students back in their normal classrooms by March 18, Graham said.

Following the mold outbreak, many of Starke’s students were sent to other elementary schools around Starke and Bradford County, including Southside Elementary School.

Southside Elementary Principal Lisa Graham said the transition, although seemingly daunting, was a successful one.

“The process was very efficient, it was within two or three weeks,” Graham said.

Southside Elementary currently accommodates most of Starke’s kindergartners and fourth graders, about 250 students. Southside Elementary had 600 students enrolled before the mold outbreak.

Starke Elementary’s office has been relocated to the Bradford County School District Building.

It was an unexpected move for first-year kindergarten teacher Natalie Whytsell.

“I changed a few things to make it more my own,” she said. “I wanted it to feel like my classroom. You only go to kindergarten once, so I wanted it to be the best that it could be.”

Starke Elementary kindergarten teacher Natalie Whytsell's new classroom at Southside Elementary School.
Starke Elementary kindergarten teacher Natalie Whytsell's new classroom at Southside Elementary School.

Whytsell said she gives credit to those at Southside Elementary for being so hospitable and that her students are finally settling in.

“They’re really welcoming, and we’re really fortunate for still being in a classroom setting,” she said. “We’re just really grateful.”

About Shane Chernoff

Shane is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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