New building ready for students after 60-year-old Wheatley Elementary torn down

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APOPKA, Fla. - It's a new day for an embattled Orange County school.

More than a year ago, a WFTV investigation revealed terrible conditions inside Wheatley Elementary School. Students and teachers had to deal with rats, termites and mold.

But Friday, WFTV toured the brand new Apopka school will open its doors to students on Monday.

There is a new media center, library and cafeteria. The classrooms are larger and equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems, so teachers can reach their students more effectively.

There are new computers in every classroom.

"It's fantastic. This school is just like our other schools. It has the newest technology in our classrooms; everything is shiny, bright and ready to welcome students on Monday," said Kathy Putnam, Orange County facilities maintenance.

Students will be more secure Monday as well. The two-story building is enclosed.

It took months to tear down the 60-year-old school.

"It has been a stepping stone in the community for hundreds of families and we love Wheatley," said former student Barbara Barnes.

But the demolition made room for a brand new facility set to open next week.

It could have taken longer to get students out of the building that was falling apart around them, had it not been for two teachers who showed WFTV pictures of rat droppings, rodents and pipes coming out of the floors.

Orange County school officials said they had plans to replace the school in a couple of years. However, when WFTV highlighted the deplorable conditions, they moved up the timeline and tore down the school last year.

"Certainly, the children in south Apopka needed a state-of-the-art building to compete for jobs in the 21st century," said school board member Christine Moore.

The old Wheatley stood strong for six decades. The only thing left of the original building is the gymnasium.

"Just to ride by and see it being demolished. It's sad, but to know it's being upgraded to something else it's a great feeling," said former student Angela Scott.

WFTV found out the new building could actually bring enrollment up, potentially to capacity for the first time in many years.

"It'll mean better education, better technology for the kids," saiid Rosemary Collier. "It's also going to bring value to this community, to the home owner." 

Wheatley is one of 11 Orange County schools set to open their doors for the first time on Monday.

"Now it's a brand new school. The old is gone and the new is here and we, as the community, are rejoicing for the new," said Collier. 

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