A global pandemic has cast uncertainty regarding what will happen in the coming school year, but the work goes on to build, expand and renovate schools in the Pasco County school district.
Rapid growth in recent years has caused school crowding. And, anticipated residential construction has created a need for schools in previously undeveloped areas.
Across the district, enrollment is expected to increase by slightly more than 1,900 students for this coming school year, and that includes charter schools, according to Chris Williams, director of planning for the school district.
It remains unclear if that projection will come to fruition, in light of impacts from COVID-19 on residential construction.
The district’s enrollment will grow — but, it’s not clear how much, Williams said during a school board workshop on the district’s capital improvement plan.
Numerous projects are planned in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, according to Williams’ presentation.
The planning director also provided an overview of schools expected to face another crowded year in 2020-2021.
Williams said he expects Odessa Elementary to be “just slammed full,” for the upcoming school year. “I don’t know (if) we could put any more students there,” he said.
“Fortunately, the relief for Odessa Elementary is the Starkey K-8, which will open, of course, next year. So, Odessa, we’re just working with them to get them through this coming year.
“Oakstead Elementary continues to be a little bit over capacity.
“I don’t know how much opening Starkey K-8, as mostly a magnet, will impact Oakstead (Elementary), but certainly it could have some impact on Oakstead Elementary, as well.
“Connerton (Elementary) continues to be over capacity,” he said.
But, he said, Connerton is experiencing “slow growth,” so the district will monitor the situation.
Wesley Chapel Elementary is expected to be slightly over capacity, but two new charter schools opening this year in Wesley Chapel — Pinecrest and Innovation Preparatory (inPrep) — are expected to have an impact, Williams said.
At the middle school level, the construction of Starkey Ranch K-8 will provide relief to River Ridge and Seven Springs middle schools, and also will likely have some impact on Rushe Middle School, too, Williams said.
A magnet 6-12 school will be opening in 2023, in the upcoming Angeline development in Land O’ Lakes, Williams said. He expects that to have an impact on Pine View and Rushe middle schools, and perhaps on River Ridge Middle, too.
“By then, Ridge Road will be complete,” the planning expert said, creating access to the new 6-12 school from all of those areas.
“Finally, after many years, we finally provide some relief to John Long Middle, with the opening of Cypress Creek Middle,” Williams added.
“Weightman Middle certainly is in a growth area,” he said, but charter schools in the area are expected to have an impact.
Williams added: “Also, we are planning in 2024 to open a magnet school, K-8, over in Wesley Chapel that also will provide relief to some of those schools.”
At the high school level, Williams said additional capacity was added to Land O’ Lakes High School during its renovation. A new classroom wing added to Sunlake High School will be ready for occupancy this year.
A new wing added to Bexley Elementary also is ready for the 2020-2021 school year.
The future 6-12 school in Angeline also will increase enrollment capacity in the Land O’ Lakes area, Williams said.
The opening of Cypress Creek Middle School this fall, will have a ripple effect on enrollments.
First, it allows Cypress Creek High School to house additional students in grades nine through 12, while Cypress Creek Middle School serves students in grades six through eight.
The additional capacity at the high school allows the school district to relieve crowding at Wiregrass Ranch High. The new middle school allows the district to relieve crowding at John Long Middle.
Wiregrass Ranch won’t feel the full impact for a couple years, Williams said, because the district grandfathered this year’s juniors and seniors at Wiregrass Ranch.
And, of course, the planning director said, the Wiregrass area is still experiencing growth.
He also noted that Pasco High is over capacity. The area, however, isn’t experiencing much growth.
The district is evaluating projects that could add capacity at Pasco High in the future, he said.
Zephyrhills High’s capacity is being increased through a project now in progress at the school, he added.
When The Innovation Academy at Kirkland Ranch opens, expected in 2023, it likely will have a significant impact on enrollments in schools on the district’s east side, he said.
Besides work that has been wrapped up recently, is underway, or on the drawing board — the district also has been securing sites for future schools.
Previously, the district has found itself in the position of being unable to find affordable land for schools, Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd told school board members.
It has resolved that issue, he said.
“As a district, we are in tremendous shape when it comes to land to build schools,” Gadd said.
Published August 05, 2020
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