Pasco County is on the grow and the public school district is planning to increase its capacity.
The Pasco County School Board recently approved the district’s five-year school plant survey, which includes existing conditions and recommended plans.
Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation, slated to open this fall, is one of the new schools on the list.
It’s a magnet school that will specialize in preparing students in career fields and technical trades such as automotive maintenance and repair, including diesel; biomedical sciences; building trades and construction technology; cybersecurity; digital media and multimedia design; engineering and robotics; welding; electricity; and, patient care technology.
Students attending the new high school are primarily coming from Wesley Chapel High, Pasco High, Zephyrhills, some from Wiregrass Ranch, and some from Cypress Creek, according to Chris Williams, director of planning for the school district.
Kirkland Ranch K-8, another school on the list, is expected to begin construction soon.
“As soon as they’re done with the Academy of Innovation, they’re moving to the back of this property. That’s going to be a magnet. Similarly, we expect that to have impact on primarily the east side. Weightman, John Long, Centennial (middle schools),” Williams said.
The elementary school students primarily will come from “Watergrass, Wesley Chapel, San Antonio, and even farther out, Double Branch, Seven Oaks, Wiregrass, that whole region,” he said.
The school plant survey also includes a number of other projects that are either planned soon, or are on a longer horizon.
A 6-12 STEM magnet school, in the emerging community of Angeline in Land O’ Lakes, is a four-story building under construction near Moffitt Cancer Center’s planned Pasco Campus.
The school is expected to open in the fall of 2023, and the school district is delighted by the partnerships it anticipates with Moffitt.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity we’ll have for our students there,” Williams said.
That school also will be the district’s tallest school, the planning director said, noting there is no other four-story school in the system.
A new traditional K-8 is planned on the south side of State Road 54, across the road from the Ballantrae subdivision. The school will be built behind a Ballantrae office complex.
Other plans call for a school campus in the new Two Rivers development off State Road 56, near Morris Bridge Road.
A site has been identified for the campus, but the school district hasn’t purchased it yet, Williams said. The site likely will be co-located with a regional park.
“We have done some preliminary thinking of how that might look. Because we’re going to have a whole campus there, probably K-8 and a high school, along with the park,” he said.
It’s not clear yet whether there will be a joint-use library, although it’s a possibility, he said.
“What are we going to be sharing? Certainly, we’ll be sharing the (athletic) fields and the parking,” Williams said.
The planning director noted that projects listed in the district’s five-year plan are subject to change because available funding will be influenced by the collection of impact fees, whether the extension of the Penny for Pasco infrastructure surtax is approved by voters, local capital millage funds, and the overall economy.
If there’s a recession, for instance, there will be less construction activity and fewer revenues collected through impact fees.
Also, voters will decide in November whether to extend the Penny for Pasco surtax for 15 additional years.
That being said, a number of other projects within the Laker/Lutz News coverage area are on the five-year list:
• Starkey Ranch K-8: Expansion for 400 student stations
Work is starting on that immediately, Williams said. When the district opened the school, it knew that the Starkey Ranch development would grow, but it turned out that the magnet school also attracted students who had been attending private schools and charter schools, Williams said.
• West Zephyrhills Elementary: Expansion for 400 student stations
If Penny for Pasco passes, the remodeling of West Zephyrhills Elementary will likely be one of the first projects that’s completed, Williams said. That project would include additional capacity.
• Pasco Senior High: Expansion for 400 student stations
When the first Penny for Pasco passed, the district did a significant project at Pasco Senior High, Williams said. That work did not include substantial work in the cafeteria or kitchen.
The conceptual plan for this project calls for tearing down the one-story building and constructing a two-story structure. The first floor would contain a kitchen and larger cafeteria. The second floor would be classrooms, Williams said. The media center likely would be remodeled, too, he said.
In addition to district projects, Williams said there’s also an expectation of some charter school expansions, as well as some new charter schools that will come online in the next few years.
Long-term school plans
These Pasco County school district projects are possibilities within the next 10 years:
• Classroom wing at these schools: Wiregrass Ranch High; Centennial Middle; and, Chester Taylor and West Zephyrhills elementary schools
• New K-8 school: Villages of Pasadena Hills and in Two Rivers
• New high schools in Bexley Ranch and in Odessa area
Source: Pasco County Schools
Published July 13, 2022