The Manatee County School District floated a significant realignment proposal this week, suggesting the closure of three underperforming and underutilized elementary schools. Superintendent Diana Greene targeted Orange Ridge-Bullock as the first with Wakeland and Blackburn soon to close their doors to traditional students.
These moves would help fill empty student stations elsewhere, better balance individual school enrollment and bring the district into greater compliance with standards on achieving a certain capacity, which could translate into construction dollars.
Many district schools are overcrowded, particularly in East Manatee where development is booming. The county is stuck by state law and cannot deny development approvals, impose moratoriums or increase impact fees all to deal with school concurrency, which means a new school will exist as the population demands.
County government can only measure growth by actual construction, not land use approvals, so school concurrency can only be approved with the final site plan or construction plan in hand.
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That appears to be the case in the near future as the school district and board prepare for the growth of the student population that is certain to come.
Rezoning students to undercapacity schools is also helpful in order to achieve concurrency. State law requires the district to borrow capacity from bordering school service areas.
Then the district can tell the county schools exceed capacity and cannot serve new development, thus triggering concurrency. That means developers may be required to make limited contributions to provide resources for district expansion.
So closing schools and shifting students to underpopulated schools and reaching capacity has a major benefit. The district is planning for a new high school and new elementary school north of the Manatee River, where major growth is in the works. Developer contributions would be most welcome.
School closures are surely warranted. Two of those elementaries often flood. Disrepair is an issue. So yes, shift students and add capacity where needed.