Vision of excellence shared at Parrish Community High School

From the groundbreaking in November 2017 to the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, a lot went into making Parrish Community High School a reality.

The school encompasses nearly 100 acres at 7505 Fort Hamer Road. When students arrive on Monday, the first day of school, they will arrive to an automotive shop, auditorium and agriculture facility, along with a gym and athletic fields.

But first, district leaders celebrated the school’s opening with hundreds of guests on Tuesday evening. All five members of the Manatee County School Board joined the ceremony, including Vice-Chair Gina Messenger, a Parrish resident and the community’s board representative.

“It will serve as a meeting place and a landmark for the entire county,” she said. “It will be home to the Friday Night Lights and scholars. But even more so, it will offer unique career and technical education for our students.”

Though it broke ground in 2017, the school was first made possible in 2016, when Manatee residents approved the extension of a half-cent sales tax. Messenger said the $90 million campus would be nonexistent without the community’s support.

“I am proud to be a part of the memories, history and tradition that begins here today,” she said.

Tuesday was a day for remembrance and celebration, said board Chairman Dave Miner. He remembered those who made PCHS possible: the designers at SchenkelShultz Architecture, the staff at Gilbane Building and the Manatee County residents who supported their efforts.

He celebrated the students who will build a future at PCHS, and the educators who prepared for their arrival on Monday.

“It is most fitting that we gather here to dedicate this beautiful building as an avenue for our children to be good and productive citizens as well,” Miner said.

About two years ago, district leaders said PCHS would relieve the overcrowding at Lakewood Ranch High School, Palmetto High School and Braden River High School.

Though it was built for approximately 2,000 students, the school will accept ninth- and 10th-grade students in its first year, adding another grade level each year for the next two years.

“That is why we built the school, because we knew the growth and the potential was out here in Parrish,” Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said on Tuesday evening.

Incoming students voted last August to choose the “Bulls” as their mascot. On Feb. 26, after more than a year of pressure from area residents, the school board voted to change the school’s name from North River High School to Parrish Community High School.

And on Tuesday evening, Principal Craig Little expressed his goal in one word: “Excellence.” He said a dedicated staff would help to achieve that goal.

“As impressive as our facility is, the most important factor in the success of our school will be the people inside the building,” Little said.

The school district will simultaneously open three new schools on Monday. The district held a ceremony for Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School on Saturday, and a ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Dr. Mona Jain Middle School on Thursday at 4 p.m.