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Monday, May 7, 2007

Cape’s New 2,200-Student Schools Ahead Of Schedule

Two new schools on a single campus should be ready in plenty of time for students and teachers to take up residence in August. When they do show up at Challenger Middle School and Patriot Elementary School, students and parents should feel secure. “There will only be one point of entry from the outside,” Challenger Principal Teri Cannady said, pointing to the front door leading to the school’s main office. It is similar at neighboring Patriot Elementary, which has an atrium-like entrance complete with high arches leading to its main office from the outside. “They were very security-minded when they built this school,” Patriot Principal Carol Bromby said. “I love it.” Challenger and Patriot, at Skyline Boulevard and Trafalgar Parkway, have been built according to schedule so far. In fact, Patriot could be ready for Bromby and some staff to move in as early as next week. Challenger is expected to be ready for occupancy next month.

The schools, which between them are 285,000 square feet and will eventually house 2,200 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grades, have several features distinguishing them from other Cape Coral school buildings. Both of them have kiln rooms, which can be used for making ceramics and pottery. In an age when some schools are fazing out family and consumer sciences, also known as home economics, that class will be alive and well at Challenger. “Our teacher will be bringing over 28 sewing machines,” Cannady said. “We have six kitchens. So we’re going to have home ec.” The middle school cafeteria is big enough that it resembles a mall food court. It will even feature an outdoor dining area. Challenger also will have a wood shop, which will be linked with a computer laboratory known as a “technology education room.” “The idea is that they can work on the computer to learn the concepts, then do the hands-on work in the shop,” Cannady said. Cannady’s son Ryan Washam, a seventh-grader, is the first Challenger student to have seen the new building. He is looking forward to having more students on campus next year.

Currently, Challenger is housed in portables by Lee County High Tech Center North and only has 374 sixth- and seventh-graders. That number is expected to balloon to closer to the capacity of 1,200 pupils in sixth through eighth grades in August. “I like having more kids because then I can have more friends,” said Ryan, 13. Other things that caught his eye: the four outdoor basketball courts Challenger will share with Patriot, science laboratories and the large cafeteria. “I like the basketball courts,” he said. “We’ll actually get something to play on.” Besides the basketball courts, the two schools also will share a bus ramp. Patriot has eight classrooms dedicated for kindergarten next year. “Coincidentally, I’ll have eight kindergartens next year,” Bromby said. Both principals said they were impressed with the design of their buildings. “The student waiting area is conveniently located right outside the assistant principal’s office,” Bromby said. “It seems like they thought of how things happen when they decided where to place the different rooms.” Bromby was principal at Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary, which moved to its permanent building January 2006, more than five months behind schedule. Patriot has not experienced those kinds of delays. “Based on the experience I’ve had, I’m really impressed with their professionalism,” Bromby said of the school’s general contractor, Gates McVey of Naples. “It starts in the attitude.” Cannady added, “Everything is as it’s supposed to be. They’ve done everything like they said.”

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