Growth puts squeeze on schools

As Pasco County Schools heads into another school year, crowded conditions are expected on several campuses within The Laker/Lutz News coverage area.

District officials are projecting that Wesley Chapel’s Wiregrass Ranch High School will operate at 141 percent of its capacity, with an estimated 2,310 students in a school designed for 1,633.

New construction continues to create the need for new schools or campus expansions in Pasco County. (Christine Holtzman)

Connerton Elementary School, in Land O’ Lakes, meanwhile, is projected to be at 120 percent of its capacity — with an anticipated 918 students at a school built for 762.

Other schools expecting big crowds are:

  • John Long Middle, projected at 123 percent of its capacity, with an expected 1,635 students at school designed for 1,327
  • Thomas Weightman Middle, projected at 116 percent of its capacity, with an expected 1,130 students at a school designed for 975
  • Cypress Creek Middle High, projected at 114 percent of its capacity, with an expected 953 students, in a space designed for 834

Chris Williams, the school district’s director of planning, outlined the district’s projected average daily memberships for 2019-2020 during a workshop with the Pasco County School Board last week.

Williams said a new Cypress Creek Middle School, expected to open in fall 2020, will provide relief for the area’s middle schools and Wiregrass Ranch High School.

That’s because the current Cypress Creek Middle High School is serving students in grades six through 12, in separate schools on the same campus.

Once the new middle school opens, it will have space for more students and high school space also will be freed to accommodate more students.

Williams said he also expects charter schools in the Wesley Chapel area to help absorb growth occurring there.

Sunlake High School, now operating over capacity, will get a 20-classroom wing, which is expected to be built this year. (File)

Even with boundary shifts, Wiregrass Ranch High’s enrollment will remain high, Superintendent Kurt Browning said.

“Keep in mind, there are more students moving in, right behind them,” Williams said.

“One thing we’re trying to avoid is a 10-period day,” Browning said.

Projects that are on the drawing board, or under construction, are expected to help the district address continued growth, Williams said.

Starkey K-8 is expected to open in two years, and is expected to provide relief to Odessa Elementary, which is expected to operate at 130 percent of its capacity this year.

Bexley Elementary and Sunlake Elementary are both adding classroom wings in the coming year, which will increase capacity at those growing schools.

Bexley, which opened in 2017, is projected to have 912 students at a school built for 906. The new classroom wing will accommodate 200 students.

Sunlake High School is projected at an enrollment of 1,994, at a school with a capacity for 1,698.

Although Connerton is expected to operate over capacity, Williams does not expect additional growth this year. Even so, he noted, “that is certainly something that we’re keeping an eye on because there’s obviously a lot of growth coming around that area.

The district’s high schools in Central Pasco and East Pasco all are expected to operate near or above capacity.

For instance, Zephyrhills High is expected to operate at 105 percent of capacity; Pasco High, at 117 percent of capacity; Cypress Creek Middle High, at 118 percent of capacity; Sunlake at 117 percent of capacity; and Land O’ Lakes High, at 95 percent of capacity.

Deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said the district expects a new magnet school, which will be built on the east side of the county, primarily will attract students from Wiregrass Ranch, Wesley Chapel, Pasco and Zephyrhills high schools.

The school will offer technical training programs and academic rigor. It is set open in 2022.

Major projects 2019-2020
Here is a look at major school construction projects planned in the 2019-2020, within The Laker/Lutz News coverage area:

  • Zephyrhills High School: Continuing campus-wide renovation
  • Land O’ Lakes High School: Wrapping up campus-wide remodel
  • Cypress Creek Middle School: Construction underway
  • Starkey K: Breaking ground within next couple of months
  • East side technical high school: Property acquired and design phase underway
  • Sunlake High: Adding a wing to increase capacity
  • Bexley Elementary: Adding a wing to increase capacity

Source: Pasco County Schools

Published July 31, 2019

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