Manatee County school board members will get an update Wednesday on what’s been dubbed the “north county” high school project.
It’s the first time the board will take up the formal topic since approving an additional land purchase in May. During a workshop on Wednesday in which the board can hear updates and ask questions but take no formal action, Jane Dreger, the district’s construction services director, will update the board on the status of the project.
A $2.3 million land purchase approved by the school board in May had the due diligence period extended, Dreger said Friday, to ensure every aspect was completed properly. Dreger anticipates closing on the land in December.
“We just want to make to sure we dot every i and cross every t,” she said.
The 50-acre property, located at 112601 Erie Road, backs up to a similar-size plot of land already owned by the school district on Martha Road. Combined, the two sites would be a suitable size for a high school, according to district officials.
The north county high school is the first planned new school for the district, which has grown to 49,000 students this year. It’s one of a number of new schools the district plans to build using a combination of impact fees, bonding and money coming from the half-cent sales tax revenue — if county voters choose to extend the existing half-cent sales tax on Tuesday.
Officials would like to open the new school for the 2019-20 academic year to help relieve overcrowding at its high schools, especially Palmetto High School, Lakewood Ranch High School and Braden River High School.
District staff shortlisted three firms for the projects architect and engineering needs and another three firms for the construction manager needs. Those interviews are scheduled for this week, Dreger said.
Once those interviews are finished and staff has come up with a recommendation, formal decisions will be made by the board.
The new high school was just one of the many potential moves the district will make in the next few years to balance enrollment. Other proposals Greene laid out in February include:
- Close Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School and move most of those students into Rogers Garden Elementary School, effective the 2016-17 academic year.
- Move the international baccalaureate program at Wakeland to Johnson Middle School for the 2017-18 school year, and discontinue using Wakeland as a school. The ACCESS program at Johnson would move to Harllee Middle, helping boost enrollment there.
- Open a new elementary school in the north area of Manatee County in time for the 2018-19 school year, to provide relief for Mills Elementary School. The district does not own any suitable elementary school property in that area yet, but Greene said a new school will be necessary, even if other measures are taken.
- Discontinue use of Blackburn as an elementary school and repurpose it as an early learning center for all students north of the river for the 2018-19 school year. Special programs for high-needs students could also be moved there. Blackburn students would be rezoned to Tillman or Palm View to help bring enrollment at those schools up to capacity.
- Rebuild or do major renovations at Tillman Elementary School to be complete for the 2018-19 school year. Greene also anticipates a rebuild or major renovation project at Oneco Elementary School in the new future.
- Convert Harllee over the next few years to a school for gifted students.