LAKEWOOD RANCH - Recommendations for a new high school and a new elementary school in the northern part of the county are headed for the Manatee County School Board's consideration.
An outside company and a steering committee of local community members finalized recommendations Wednesday to help remedy overcrowded and under-utilized schools in Manatee County during a meeting at Lakewood Ranch High School. The recommendations are a combination of analysis of district facilities and community feedback.
"I think one of the other themes is that things that cost a lot of money are popular with the community," said Scott Leopold, a consultant with DeJong-Richter.
The cost factor caused problems for the steering committee when trying to decide the best recommendations for the school board to consider.
The scenarios will be presented to the school board on Tuesday at 2 p.m. The board will take no action on Tuesday. The recommendations include a high-cost option and a low-cost option for most cases. Some of the recommendations that'll go before the board include:
Build a new high school in the north/east location that can hold 1,800 students; redistrict students at Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Braden River high schools. A new high school costs between $80 and $100 million.
Explore dual enrollment, a morning school and an afternoon school, or an extended day situation, if money is not available to build a new high school.
Re-purpose Harllee Middle School into an exceptional student education center and redistrict the students from that school into the district's other middle schools. That has no cost, but doesn't fully solve the problem at the middle school level.
Convert Johnson Middle School to a K-8 International Baccalaureate school, and close Wakeland Elementary School
Build a new middle school to relieve Haile and Nolan middle schools.
Build a new elementary school in the north to relieve Mills Elementary School, close Tillman Elementary School and redistrict among Palmetto, Palm View and Blackburn elementary schools at a cost of about $30 million.
Redistrict Mills students to Blackburn and/or Tillman at little to no cost.
Maintain existing facilities for east elementary schools, which include Bashaw, Braden River, Freedom, Gullett, NcNeal, Myakka City, Tara, Willis and Witt.
Place attractive programs in under-utilized elementary schools elsewhere in the county in an attempt to pull students out of east elementary schools.
Add additional pre-kindergarten programs to help under-utilized elementary schools in the west, which include Anna Maria, Bayshore, Miller, Moody, Palma Sola, Prine, Sea Breeze and Stewart.
Close Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School, renovate Oneco Elementary School, and create a zone for children to go to Rogers Garden Elementary School, in addition to keeping the choice program.
Close Orange Ridge and Oneco, build a new elementary school at a new location. A new school would cost about $30 million but the district would also need to purchase land.
The recommendations are a result of a process that began in September, when Ohio-based DeJong-Richter began working with the district. The company, along with the steering committee, analyzed district school capacity, enrollment, condition and other factors to come up with recommendations.
A survey, presented during a meeting in December and online through the district website, yielded more than 700 responses from members of the community on a variety of options. With those responses in mind, the recommendations were whittled down on Wednesday.
The largest number of responses from the online survey came from those who self-identified as being associated with Wakeland Elementary School, the district's only international baccalaureate elementary program. To help alleviate elementary capacity and to help speed up the need for a new middle school, one proposal included combining Wakeland with Johnson Middle School, the district's IB middle school.
The majority of Wakeland responses were not in favor of combining the two schools. Concerned parents have been meeting with district and school officials. A Facebook page was created called "Save Wakeland Elementary," and an online petition has been circulating.
"People loving their school is a great problem to have," Leopold said.
The steering committee and DeJong-Richter included both middle school options that affect Wakeland, so the board could consider the issue.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter