Middle school planned for Tinker Elementary
Security and other base concerns a factor in planning construction
by Nick Stubbs
As MacDill housing improves and expands and base officials work to achieve at least 10 percent of every rank living on base, the only thing missing was a school to serve every student.
A step toward that objective will begin later this year when work begins to expand Tinker Elementary from a K-5 school to a K-8. In addition to the new classrooms needed, all offices and classes at the aging school will get upgraded and remodeled and MacDill officials are working closely with Hillsborough County Schools to ensure the special concerns of a military base in the age of terrorism are considered.
"It's a complete overhaul," said Tony Rodriguez, the community planner with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron and liaison between the Hillsborough County School District and the base. "It's a renewal and expansion project."
Mr. Rodriguez said the job will create 14 new classrooms to handle sixth through eighth graders. Three new science labs will be built, making for a total of 20,600 additional square feet of space at the school. The expansion phase is budgeted at $2.5 million and renovation of the rest of the school is set at $2.7 million.
Work is slated to begin in October of this year and take about a year to complete. The project is funded by the county school district.
Mr. Rodriguez said the expansion was needed to support the older students on base.
"As we get a wider range of ranks living on base, including those with older children, we needed a way to capture students from sixth grade up rather than bussing them off somewhere else," he said.
There are no immediate plans to accommodate high school students but the addition of middle school on base is expected to be a big benefit for parents and students, said Mr. Rodriquez.
The job is in the hands of planners and designers, who are being advised by 6th Security Forces officials about preferences regarding securing the school. The contractor and school district are not bound by military security issues but Mr. Rodriguez said he expects good cooperation and recognition of the special needs of MacDill in an age where security concerns are high.
"An example might be how close vehicles can pull up to the school," said Mr. Rodriguez. "The designers can take into account some of these concerns and try to accommodate the security recommendations if they have the budget."
For Cheryl Tyo, school principal, the addition will open many new opportunities. In addition to answering a call by many MacDill parents to accommodate middle-school children, from an educator's standpoint the dynamics of having younger and older children in the same school have benefits for all.
"Middle school kids act more responsibly when they are around the younger ones," she said. "They take a leadership role and serve as mentors and generally are more responsible; we expect to see a good many of them (middle school kids) serving as tutors and helping the younger kids out with their work."
Ms. Tyo said the new space and improved looks will make the school-going experience more pleasant for all.
"It will be nice to see a new look and new furniture," she said. "This is something we've needed for a long time."
Ms. Tyo said new teachers will be hired to handle the new students, though the number of teachers will depend on the number of new students, a figure that is not yet known. Many of those middle school children will come from off base, riding with parents to work at MacDill, she said.
While parents are free to seek permission from the school district for their children to attend elsewhere, the advantages of having them on base, with the emphasis at Tinker on serving military students and families, the choice will be clear for many MacDill personnel, she said. "We have a lot to offer for those at MacDill."