By: Sharon Aron Baron
The Broward County School Board has approved an $18 million building now under construction at Marjory Stoneman Douglas; however, no one at the district knows what it is going to look like.
At least, according to Kathy Koch, the recently hired chief communications officer, and former PR person for Somerset Academy.
Koch is the $165,000-a-year outside public relations executive whose job could be described as protecting Runcie from bad publicity.
Since September 17, we sent her, and the district, a public records request for the architectural rendering of the new building no less than seven times. The Florida Sunshine Law, established in 1995, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of government bodies in Florida.
Koch says the district doesn’t have it.
How could this be? Did the school board approve an $18 million project sight unseen? We understand the security of releasing the floor plans, however, that’s not what we requested.
Our multiple requests were for the architectural rending of the exterior of the project. Just like every multi-million project has and makes available.
According to Koch, she cannot get it. Instead, she sent construction photos. She has denied our public records request without giving any grounds for doing so.
The construction company, Pirtle, will not release it unless it gets her okay — and so far, Koch wants to control its release.
This new building is essential to the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Until it’s completion, in the fall of 2020, students at the Parkland school are housed in temporary buildings. And the new addition, set to replace Building 12, couldn’t come soon enough. Building 12’s presence on the campus, where the deadly mass shooting took place, is a constant reminder of the mass shooting.
Because it will be used for evidentiary purposes under an order from the State Attorney’s Office, Building 12 cannot be destroyed until Nikolas Cruz trial takes place in January, where he faces the death penalty.
Until then, the building, which once housed 900 students is surrounded by a 12-foot-fence surrounded by a scenic backdrop in the hopes of providing emotional healing for the students and staff at the school.
In June of 2018, the State set aside $25 million for a replacement building, and the Qualification Selection Evaluation Committee selected Pirtle Construction Company, as the most qualified proposer.
On October 16, 2018, the school board voted to approve Pirtle to build a replacement building at the cost of $18 million.
The 30-classroom, two-story building is now under construction on the south side of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and can be seen from the Sawgrass Expressway.
Thirty-four temporary portable classrooms were installed during the summer of 2018 for interim use while the district and the SMART team (safety, music/art, athletics, renovation, and technology) worked to plan and design the new building.