Edith I. Starke Elementary School is set to be demolished and rebuilt, after a report showed most of the school’s buildings failed an inspection.
“All of the buildings failed except for one, and it’s on the borderline of failing,” Volusia County School Board Member Jamie Haynes said at the May 10 regular School Board meeting. “And so we’re going to give Starke Elementary a brand-new school with the thought that we can add additional seats to that school.”
“DeLand is continuing to grow, and we are starting to be overcrowded,” Haynes added.
Starke, at 730 S. Parsons Ave. in DeLand, was originally built for minority students before the advent of integration. The majority of the 15 buildings that comprise the school were built in the late 1950s to early 1960s, with additions constructed around the 1980s. Only one building is newer, constructed in 2011, and the report estimated that it has about 15 years more of usability.
“It’s very clear that the buildings are in significant need of a rebuild, not renovation,” Chief Operating Officer Dr. Mark Shanoff told the School Board.
The report, which assesses the conditions of the buildings and then calculates a cost analysis for repair or rebuild, noted many deficiencies with the now-outdated structures.
One major concern is security, as the school has buildings connected by open-air pathways, with multiple entry points. Another concern is compliance with standards for accessibility by people with disabilities.
“Externally circulated buildings are frowned upon in modern-day schools for their energy inefficiencies as well as student safety in an open campus,” the report notes.
Additionally, many of the buildings show signs of water damage, classrooms have poor lighting, and the heating and cooling systems are all outdated.
“There are a lot of accommodated spaces that need to be made. There’s significant water intrusion that we need to address,” Shanoff said. “Basically, there’s just years of wear and tear on the building that really can only be addressed through a new structure.”
Demolition costs are estimated at $150,000.
More students are expected to attend a new school built at the location, Shanoff said.
The school currently has a capacity of around 577, according to the report. At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, 304 students were enrolled.
It will cost more to build a school that can handle more students.
“We could perhaps look at our impact fees as an offset for the cost escalations that will come from adding additional student stations and making this a bigger project,” Shanoff said. “That would be consistent with the growth in that part of the county.”
The new school would be built with funding from “certificates of participation,” known as COPs, a financing tool where the district will lease the building from investors after construction, as opposed to financing construction by selling bonds and owning it outright.
The assessment is the first step in a longer process — there is currently no timeline for when construction will begin, Shanoff said. Nor has it been decided exactly what accommodations will be made for students during the demolition and rebuild.
The School Board’s agenda item was to approve a contract with an architect, with estimated costs of $973,400. It passed unanimously, as part of the consent agenda.