Zach Voelker, design technology coordinator at The Beck Group, asks for signatures to a photo rendering of High School UUU in Wimauma. (Photo credit: Linda Chion.)

Long before High School UUU in Wimauma welcomes its first students, learning has been underway at the school that “is two times larger in size and cost than anything we’ve ever built,” according to Chris Farkas, deputy superintendent of operations for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“It’s good to be on a ground-up project,” said Chris Hart, a supervisor with The Beck Company, which, in partnership with Envision, has been contracted to build High School UUU, as it is known before its name selection. “A job of this nature, even if you’ve seen 10 other ones, you’re going to see something here you haven’t seen before. That’s why I love what we do, because every day is a learning experience.”

Hart celebrated May 1 at the topping-out ceremony for the $176 million, multibuilding campus, with 3-story classroom wings, at 1708 W. Lake Dr. in Wimauma. It sits on an 87-acre greenfield site that will house as well an elementary and middle school, set to open in 2027 and 2028, respectively. They will share with the 359,000-square-foot high school campus a central energy plant that is set to become operational with the high school’s opening, in time for the start of the 2025-26 school year.

‘Topping out’ is a ceremony that occurs when the final, or highest, structural theme is raised into place, what Ryan Toth of The Beck Company referred to as “like a Thanksgiving dinner.” Feasting on the project’s progress were contractors, skilled tradespeople and school officials, including board Chair Karen Perez and board members Lynn Gray and Patti Rendon, as well as Envision co-founders Allen Greene II, a Sickles High School graduate, and his namesake father, a graduate of Tampa Bay Technology High School.

The younger Greene said the Wimauma school “is by far the largest and most impactful project” the company has worked on for the county, as he reflected on the recent passing of Doris Ross Reddick, the namesake of the nearby elementary school, whose celebration of life was held a day later. Reddick died on April 21 at age 97.

Reddick was the first African-American school board member and chair. Under her watchful eye, annual minority business allocations rose “from a meager $1,084 to millions” of dollars, according to a 2021 proclamation issued for her 94th birthday.

“We thank those trailblazers who blaze a trail for people like us,” the younger Greene said at the topping-out ceremony.

On hand to celebrate the school taking shape just south of Sun City Boulevard were hundreds of builders skilled in their respective trades, who celebrated as well 250 days on the job without one workplace injury.

Steve Hurst, a Beck supervisor, reflected on the value of hands-on work and training in a field that is witnessing a two-generation gap in trades experience. Workers reportedly have been aging out faster than apprentices have been stepping in. Hurst said it is imperative to share what you know to prepare those coming up behind you to build for future generations.

“It’s excellent that I can share my knowledge, any little small tricks to the trade, to try to make everyone who’s affiliated with me successful,” Hurst said. “It’s not just about getting the job done. It’s about leaving a little bit of yourself behind, because what you’ve got is what you were given to share.”

Set to serve the growing and emerging communities in and about Wimauma, High School UUU will draw students from Earl J. Lennard High School in Ruskin and Jule F. Sumner High School in Balm/Riverview. School highlights include a 2-story media center; a 2-story, 3,400-seat gymnasium; and a 973-seat theater/auditorium and orchestra pit.

Also in the plans are an automotive lab; JROTC labs; digital, 2D and 3D art labs; and a lab for EA Sports, a division of Electronic Arts that develops and publishes sports video games.

Plans detail 142 classrooms and a multisport synthetic turf playing field and a 3,500-seat stadium, along with a practice football field, a 300-seat softball field, a 505-seat baseball field and press box, track-and-field facilities and basketball and tennis courts.

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