When Pasco County School Board member Alison Crumbley considers anticipated growth along the State Road 54/56 corridor, she said, she is “taken aback.”
She worries about the school district’s ability to provide schools for all of the students who will be moving into the new communities that are taking shape along that corridor.
Superintendent Kurt Browning shares that sentiment.
“That 54 corridor concerns me greatly,” Browning said, during a recent school board workshop on the district’s construction plans.
“Our need certainly outpaces our resources,” the superintendent said. “When you look at the 54 corridor, from really, Little Road to just beyond Wiregrass, that’s Curley Road — there is so much growth and projected growth.
“Even up on Curley, there’s master-planned communities.
“As superintendent, it concerns me, because I know moms and dads don’t want their kids in crowded classrooms. And I don’t want their kids in crowded classrooms.
“Nor, do I want to build new schools and, the next thing you know, you see portables being pulled up on those school campuses,” Browning said.
The lack of revenue has prompted the school district to launch an impact fee study, which could lead to higher school impact fees paid for new construction of residential properties in Pasco County.
Meanwhile, the district is engaged in numerous construction projects and have others planned in the near future.
Chris Williams, director of planning, outlined those projects during the board’s workshop. He also provided additional details during a separate interview.
Sanders Memorial Elementary School is getting a massive makeover — and the Land O’ Lakes Elementary School is getting more than a brand new look. It is also becoming Pasco County’s first magnet school.
When Sanders opens in the fall, it will offer a curriculum that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
Quail Hollow Elementary, set to reopen in August, has a new floor plan that established individual classrooms in the formerly “open” school. The school also will have updated building systems, technology on par with any new elementary school in the district and a new cafeteria with a stage.
The school district also is in the process of designing three new schools, Elementary W in Wiregrass Ranch, Elementary B in Bexley Ranch, and High School GGG on Old Pasco Road, which will open as a school for sixth grade through 12th grade.
The district also is planning additional schools in the Wesley Chapel area.
“Elementary W is the first of potentially three or four in Wiregrass,” Williams said during the board workshop.
The district is working on a new design for Elementary B in Bexley Ranch, because it wants the school to accommodate more students than a typical district elementary school, Williams said.
Bexley Ranch will provide substantial relief for Oakstead and Odessa elementary schools, Williams said.
Other future schools are proposed for the Bexley Ranch area, and a future elementary school is planned for Starkey Ranch. A future middle school is also proposed for Starkey Ranch, Williams said.
The district also already has purchased land for a future school on the south side of State Road 54.
The biggest concern about middle school capacity is in the Wesley Chapel area, Williams said.
High School GGG, which will serve grades six through 12, will provide significant relief to Wesley Chapel area middle schools and high schools.
Wiregrass Ranch High has so many students, it is going to a 10-period day for the next two years to manage the number of students on campus at one time.
High School GGG will have a capacity of 1,900 students. It is expected to draw students from areas now assigned to Wiregrass Ranch and Wesley Chapel high schools, and Weightman and Long middle schools.
The district is using this approach because it can’t afford to build both a high school and a middle school. As population grows and demand increases, the district plans to build Middle School HH at the same location.
The boundary process for High School GGG and Elementary School B is expected to begin in about 18 months, the planning director said.
Williams said he is concerned about the ability of Mitchell, Sunlake and Land O’ Lakes high schools to absorb anticipated future enrollment.
“Land O’ Lakes (High), hopefully, when we remodel that school, we can add some capacity. It’s not going to be enough for long-term,” Williams said.
“We do have a high school site promised to us in Bexley Ranch. That potentially is going to have a big impact, especially on Sunlake.
“I continue to look for two additional high school sites, one in the Land O’ Lakes area and one in the (State Road) 54/Suncoast Parkway area,” Williams said.
But he added: “Those are hard to come by.”
“There is a high school site promised in the River Landing area, that could potentially impact Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass and Zephyrhills,” Williams said.
“It would be along the extension of State Road 56. It would be east of Mansfield, but on the west side of Morris Bridge Road. Zephyr Egg Property, if you’d ever heard of that,” he said.
School Board member Allen Altman said he’s worried that the increasing need to spend money on new construction will make it that much harder for the district to maintain the buildings it has.
It’s a known fact that proper maintenance saves taxpayers money in the long term, but the district doesn’t have a choice. It must spend money to provide school capacity, he said.
While the district considers its long-range plans and short-term needs, construction continues.
Elementary W, being built between John Long Middle School and Wiregrass Ranch High, is set to open in 2016.
When it opens, it will be possible for students to attend elementary school through college on the same street, since Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch is just down the road.
Williams expects the school boundary process for Elementary W to begin in October or November.
That school will help relieve crowding at Seven Oaks and Double Branch elementary schools, but the particulars of how that will be achieved have not been determined yet.
“Seven Oaks really popped this year,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, in East Pasco, the school district will be building a new cafeteria, and doing parking and traffic improvements at Cox Elementary.
Pasco Elementary also is getting some improvements, as plans call for remodeling several buildings, Williams said.
Published July 15, 2015