Future Construction at Druid Complex May Turn Heads

The long-vacant Druid Complex will be demolished and rebuilt as an extension to Clearwater High School – eventually.

The Druid Complex, the vacant building next to Clearwater High School, needs $4.8 million in renovations, according to a site analysis accepted by the Pinellas County School Board last week.

But that survey won’t be used to help officials make future repairs to the existing building.

Rather, the review also allows the district to reclassify the building so it can be destroyed and a new facility can be constructed.

Estimates for the demolition are still being accepted, and a cost estimate is not yet available. A time frame has not been determined, either.

Demolishing the building is a priority because operational costs are still associated with the building even though it is vacant, said Michael Bessette, a Pinellas County Schools superintendent for facilities and operations.

Eventually, the site will be used to expand Clearwater High School’s parking and to improve the school’s bus ramp.

This project comes in the wake of sweeping budget cuts this summer that have left many educators jobless.

As the process moves forward, it likely will draw attention from critics concerning whether or not the expenditure is wise in a time when the district is strapped for cash and pinching pennies. School officials are not ignorant to that dilemma. 

“We’re very aware of the visual of building when we are in budget cuts,” Bessette said. “But you can’t neglect your assets, and (the project) comes from different funds.”

The money for the demolition and eventual rebuild of the Druid Complex as part of Clearwater High School will be paid for through capital funds. That money can be for infrastructure projects such as maintenance and new construction.

During the school board’s May 26 meeting, more than 400 jobs were on the chopping block. Although certain library and STARS positions were saved, more than 300 jobs were still cut. And other school employees will now be subject to furloughs.

During the June 14 meeting, board member Robin Wikle also made comment on public perception of expenditures. She said that while they know certain funds come from other entities, the public may think it is coming from the district’s budget. 

As more is revealed about this project, it may fall subject to negative perceptions.  Officials hope that the public will recognize the need to continue growth and management of existing facilities.

“Capital funds have been reduced significantly, so we are very, very careful to use them for only necessary projects,” Bessette said.  “This project will start when we are able to fit it in the budget.”

For now, the Druid Complex will continue to sit vacant until more plans materialize.  Bessette estimates that work will not commence for at least another year.  


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