APOPKA. Fla. - Students from Wheatley Elementary School are in a different building this year. It's a big change from the school they've attended in recent years.
In February, 9 Investigates exposed the problems that forced the Orange County School District to close the 60-year-old school and start demolition a year ahead of schedule.
This year, Wheatley students are attending school at the Apopka High School Ninth Grade Center. It's just a few miles away from their old school, but those who work inside said it couldn't be more different.
Inside Wheatley, 9 Investigates exposed a pest problem, rusted pipes and sagging ceiling tiles. Several internal investigations blamed those problems for making teachers and students sick.
"I was getting sick, other people were getting sick, and it was time for our students to get a new building," said teacher Myla Hall.
Demolition on Wheatley is expected to start by October. Then construction of the new $15 million school will begin.
"A lot of the schools we deal with are older campuses, but it's really exciting when we refresh a project," said Jeff Hart with Orange County Public Schools.
Hart said the new school should be ready to open this time next year.
"Our timelines are always aggressive, in that we have to wait for students to be out in the summertime and we have to be done before they start the following year," said Hart.
Channel 9 learned that the
move to the 9th grade center for the school year will cost an additional $63,000 for the three extra bus runs needed.
Hart said moving the students this year will save the district money.
Because the students are at the ninth grade center, the district will not have to pay the cost of portable
classrooms. The move also allows the demolition and construction to move faster. It will mean a savings of about $500,000, according to Hart.
"They would still be going to school [at Wheatley] if I had not reached out to Channel 9," said Hall.
Hall was dean at Wheatley and called Channel 9 when the conditions weren't being fixed.
Since then she has been moved to a teaching position and has hired an attorney.
The school district told Channel 9 that Hall had to go through a grievance process.
"I have experienced retaliation. I have been reassigned from my position. I've lost money. I've lost sleep," said Hall.
Designs for the new school are expected to be completed in a few weeks.