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  • Writer's pictureParrish Civic Association

New Parrish Community High School is Set to Open

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

By Mimi Sheffer

Parrish is growing! There is evidence of that fact all over the town with multiple residential and commercial construction projects underway. There is so much growth in our area, in fact, three new schools are coming online in the town of Parrish this fall – a new public elementary school, a new charter elementary and middle school and the new high school, Parrish Community High School.

As residents may remember, the new High School was originally named North River High School through a fumbled School Board designation process. The close proximity to a giant residential housing development named for the region led many to believe that the North River moniker would be endorsed by the local community; however, the regional name created a firestorm.

Long-time residents and families who have called Parrish home for decades, including many who have been here since the beginning of Parrish more than 150 years ago, scratched their heads in confusion when the new school was named for the regional area and not named for the town itself. Others cried out that the powers-that-be in Manatee County intended to wipe “Parrish” off the map like several other communities have disappeared with the growth and development in our county.

After hearing from the community that our collective voices were not being heard and that our town’s identity was being intentionally eroded by the coming waves of development, the Parrish Civic Association (PCA) stepped in, led by President Gretchen Fowler and VP Norma Kennedy. Determined to save our close-knit community and its rich history, the PCA printed and sold #WeAreParrish shirts at cost and lobbied residents to show up en masse wearing the shirts to School Board Meetings and make formal requests to change the name to Parrish High School. Hundreds of people showed up over the course of several months and finally, the School Board acquiesced, agreeing to a formal reconsideration period of six months, after which School Board Members would hear from the public and vote on keeping or changing the name. In February, the School Board Meeting was moved to the Bradenton Convention Center to accommodate the anticipated crowds. The Parrish Civic Association held a tail gate party before the Meeting, providing food for the crowds and drawing large-scale press for the February 26th meeting.

Despite the rainy weather, the town of Parrish showed up by the hundreds, many of them wearing #WeAreParrish shirts, showing support for a new name that included Parrish in some capacity. The meeting ran for hours; all residents who wished to voice their opinion were heard, then School Board Members voiced their concerns. School Board Member Gina Messenger motioned for the high school to be named Parrish Community, to reflect both the town and the larger community and was seconded by new Board Member Rev. James Golden, who eloquently reflected on the struggle between history and progress. The name Parrish Community High School was embraced and voted in, leading to rounds of cheers and applause.

With the nearly year-long battle finally over, Parrish eagerly turned its attention toward the construction progress, anxious for a glimpse into the school that proudly bears the town’s name. While the new school hasn’t officially opened yet, the campus is literally buzzing with activity. Construction workers are busy adding the finishing touches – paint, classroom numbers and tech equipment, as some administrative staff members are moving in and setting up offices.

Led by Principal Craig Little, Parrish Community High School promises to bring together the residents of Parrish and the residents of the larger, regional community with “the best education possible to ensure that students achieve their future goals”. Principal Little is “committed to working with staff, students, parents and the community to develop traditions and goals which will meet the needs of all our students” and looks forward to creating a culture of honest communication, with parental and community support.

PCHS will include leading edge technology and layers of advanced safety measures, to ensure that students are able to focus on academics in a comfortable environment. The uniquely designed campus is set back from Erie Road and includes a nearly mile-long student driveway to assist with traffic flow.

Several separate buildings connected by covered walkways incorporate the outdoor spaces in a bright, open courtyard setting. Safety fences and gates surround the school, discreetly providing a closed campus with the feel of a college campus. Staff members are assigned key cards, providing specific access to buildings that they will need to utilize. The administration building is separate from the academic buildings and security cameras blanket the campus, providing additional layers of protection and assurance for students and parents alike.

The new state-of-the-art facility will have high-tech classrooms with collaborative capabilities, including individual wifi units and integrated, wall-mounted televisions for accessing the school’s learning platform, Schoology. At PCHS, some textbooks will be issued to students but the administration plans to move to a BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – platform in the first few years, allowing students to access and work online from their personal tablet or laptop.

Parrish citizens are looking forward to cheering on the home town teams at the many sports activities taking place on the campus, like basketball, wrestling, soccer and eventually lacrosse. Shawn Trent is the Athletic Director and Coach Christopher Culton is the Head Football Coach. Coach Culton gave several PCA Members a campus tour in late July.

The campus is expansive and connected by open-air walkways. It feel very much like a college campus. The cafeteria looks like an enormous Starbucks and hosts a variety of

seating areas, including a huge covered outdoor seating area overlooking the courtyard. There is a vast building for the car shop mechanics classes, with several car lifts. The Auditorium is said to be sleek and enormous!

Large, modern locker rooms for each of the sports teams house Bull navy blue lockers. There is a weight room for the student athletes and a huge dance studio for dance classes. An outdoor Physical Education basketball court flanks the back of the school.

The navy and silver colors of the Bull Mascot pop against the glossy gymnasium floor and the bleachers alternate between navy blue and silver-gray. Just

outside the gym is a concession stand and large modern kitchen area for the upcoming basketball games. Coach Culton talked about current and future plans to connect PCHS with the Parrish and regional community and is excited to get the year started. There is no doubt that Parrish Community High School will be a centerpiece in the future fabric of the Parrish community, bringing us together as hometown team fans.

• The first Annual Golf Classic will be held at Waterlefe Golf & River Club on September 21st at 8:30 am with a 4-person scramble. For information, contact Tony Cummings the Tournament Manager at 941-504-9848 or

• The Hooks ‘N Horns Fishing Tournament to support the FFA will be held on Saturday, September 7th at Lake Parrish. For information, email

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