It’s a project people in Viera have been talking about for nearly three decades … and now it’s about to become a reality.
Construction on a middle school for the Viera-Suntree area is scheduled to start in January 2023 on land located next to Viera High School with an anticipated opening date of August 2024.
Once completed, the combination of Viera Elementary School (which opened in 2020), the yet-to-be-named middle school and Viera High School are expected to provide one of the best educational opportunities for students in Brevard County and beyond.
“We will be competing for the top school pipeline in the state — elementary to middle to high — there’s no doubt,” said Brevard County School Board member Matt Susin, who represents District 4. “
…We’re going to put in the best opportunity for Viera-Suntree parents. We are looking to drive the best school combination in the state of Florida.”
Sue Hann, the assistant superintendent for facilities for Brevard County Public Schools, said the new middle school will be a one-story complex with three buildings. The 138,000 square-foot facility will be able to accommodate 1,002 students and will also feature a track, grass field areas, four hard courts for tennis and a gym.
“We are designing a traffic signal. Basically, the front entrance is going to be at Veterans Way.” — Sue Hann
“We’ll have modern classrooms,” Hann said. “That’s Promethean screens, doc cams, speakers, projectors … the whole modern classroom theme. We’ll have a connection between Stadium (Parkway) and Lake Andrew (Drive), so the bus loop will be out on Lake Andrew, but it’s going to connect to the service road that is north of Viera High School right now.
“We are designing a traffic signal. Basically, the front entrance is going to be at Veterans Way. So, we’re designing a signal and will be working with Brevard County on that. It’s kind of a cooperative project, but we’re taking the initiative to get that designed.
“We’re also going to tie in the parking lot with the high school. The high school and the middle school (end) at different times, so the high school will have access to the signal as well.”
Because middle school students aren’t old enough to legally drive golf carts, there will be no golf cart-specific parking area.
The estimated cost of the project, which includes the buildings, roads and other infrastructure is $45 million.
Johnathan Wilkes, a project executive at Wharton-Smith, Inc., which will build the school, said his company is putting together a procurement package to stay ahead of rising inflation costs and supply chain issues in order to finish on time.
“The biggest challenge we have right in the industry, especially on these large projects is getting your switchgear, so those big main switchboards that run the power to everything, your transformers, your chillers and your cooling towers … all your big central items … lead time is about 52 weeks,” Wilkes said. “So, you have to order them a year before you need them.” Wharton-Smith, which Wilkes said has been the No. 1 builder of kindergarten to 12th-grade schools in Florida the past two years, also built Viera Elementary as a state-of-the-art facility. The new middle school will follow along those lines.
“I would say from a construction standpoint, from the structure, it’s even better,” Wilkes said. “This is not the same prototype. It will be concrete, hardened … not that Viera Elementary isn’t. Viera Elementary has tilt walls, so it’s concrete encased. But then, it has a metal building kind of surrounding it with metal roofing. “
This will be concrete tilt walls with steel joists, essentially, and then a poured concrete roof. Then, it gets a layer of roofing membrane on top of that. “
… So, it will have all the bells and whistles that Viera Elementary has, and it will have even more.”
While Viera High School is the hurricane shelter for the public in the area, the new middle school could become a supplemental shelter for first responders and could even serve as a command center.
Susin, who has pushed hard through the years for Viera to get a middle school, emphasized all the positives the facility will provide.
There are approximately 400 students from Viera-Suntree that attend DeLaura Middle School in Satellite Beach. That’s 11 buses traveling over the causeways at an annual cost of more than $500,000 in fuel and maintenance.
Once the Viera middle school is built, those kids won’t have to take a 45-minute bus ride to-and-from school. It’s also possible Viera High School could draw more students who would otherwise make the transition from DeLaura to Satellite, or even Edgewood.
With Viera High’s enrollment expected to rise by at least 80 students, construction on a new building is scheduled to begin Nov. 14.
“We had to build that because of the growth of the students that are going to not go to Satellite anymore and will go (to Viera),” Susin said. “Plus, the tie to that is Viera never had a career and technical true academy. We’re putting in a pipeline for Viera Builders. It’s going to be construction framing. They’ll learn how to build out the interiors of homes.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it if you start to see some astronaut statues inside this one.” — Matt Susin
Susin also envisions a time when middle school students who want to take upper-level classes will be able to do so at the high school.
That’s not all.
“We’re literally going to be gearing this thing toward the NASA space race that’s about to happen,” Susin said. “It’s mainly because a lot of your Northrop Grumman families live here. A lot of your aerospace engineers and families that work there live here. It’s going to be geared toward that. I wouldn’t doubt it if you start to see some astronaut statues inside this one.”
A parent committee will begin discussing the name of the new school in January 2024. A recommendation will eventually go to the school board for approval. Susin has no doubt the new middle school will be a huge success.
“This middle school will be tops in the state for achievement,” he said. “It just will. It’ll smoke everything because of the kids that are there.”