A new high school planned for the Parrish area of Manatee County will be built to accommodate 2,000 students, but officials are already planning to expand the original structure if necessary.
Enough student stations will be built for 2,100 students, and the state says the student capacity is 95 percent of the student stations, meaning the school will be able to hold 2,000 students when it first opens.
“This is an exciting and monumental task,” board member Dave Miner said.
The “core areas” of the new school, in the works for the corner of Martha Road and Erie Road in Parrish, would be built to accommodate up to 2,525 students. With the 95 percent capacity rate, the district can build up to 400 more student stations in the future. The core areas include the media center, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, the administration and other areas.
“It allows for a future classroom wing addition so that all you’re building in the future are classrooms, which are the least expensive to build,” said Jane Dreger, the Manatee County School District construction services director, told the school board during a workshop Wednesday.
Officials are meeting with potential construction managers and architects that submitted a request for proposals on Thursday. Dreger told the board she hopes to have an invitation to negotiate with the top-ranked firms in December and a final contract for the board to approve in January.
“This is exciting. This is what I do, I’ve been waiting,” Dreger said.
The district owns 50 acres of land in the area already and is under contract to purchase 50 more acres to bring the total acreage to 100. Dreger expects the deal to close in December. The land purchase cost the district $2.3 million.
The overall high school project is expected to cost $80 million, Dreger said.
Dreger said construction managers and architects have been asked to submit a two-story building proposal, preferably with a brick exterior. They’re also hoping to see a prototype design, a design that can be replicated in the future and is designed to easily be built on any site.
Board member Bob Gause asked whether the district had engaged with a traffic engineer yet, already raising concerns over the potential traffic a new high school would cause in that area.
“We have talked with the country administrator. They do know,” Superintendent Diana Greene said. “We had that conversation last night. They’re very supportive and they know that we’re going to need their support.”
Miner had similar concerns.
“So far I haven’t received any good answers I might say,” Miner said.
Dreger said officials have been waiting to own the additional property before diving head first into those concerns.
“That’s the time to start those collaborative discussions,” Dreger said.
The conversation about the new high school came in the wake of Manatee County voters approving an already existing half-cent sales tax to benefit the school district. According to the unofficial results, the school extension earned 102,367 “yes” votes (59 percent) versus 70,691 “no” votes (41 percent).
The sales tax money, about $30 million a year, and school district impact fees will help fund the school.
School district chief financial officer Rebecca Roberts said she has started conversations about what the financing options exist.
Earlier in the workshop, the school board also heard an update on how the process to raise bond money works, if the board chose to issue bonds from the half-cent sales tax money.
Other than signing off on purchasing the additional 50 acres of land, the school board has taken no formal action on the high school.
If all goes according to plan, Dreger said the high school would open in August 2019.