Education

Manatee County School District to shuffle portable classrooms to deal with enrollment growth

MANATEE -- Three Manatee County elementary schools will have additional portable classroom buildings on campus next year to handle expected increased growth in student enrollment.

Manatee County School District officials are calling to move relocatable classrooms -- often called portables -- to Mills, Williams and Prine elementary schools to accommodate the anticipated 2015-16 student population, according to the school board agenda for next week. They would be moved away from Blackburn Elementary, Tara Elementary, Lincoln Middle, Sugg Middle and Manatee Technical College.

A report detailing the changes must be approved by the board and sent to the state as part of the district's Educational Plant Supplemental Survey. The reports, which are done on a rolling basis, take into account any type of change in usage at

the district's schools, said Jane Dreger, the director of capital projects.

"We do them on a rolling basis," Dreger said. "This is routine."

Mills will pick up two relocatable classrooms, one from Blackburn and one from Lincoln, to increase school capacity to hold 1,002 students. As of January, Mills had 1,134 students enrolled in the school. Mills is located on 69th Street East in Palmetto, next to Buffalo Creek Middle School.

Williams Elementary will pick up three relocatable classrooms, one from Manatee Technical College and two from Tara Elementary School, to increase school capacity to 925 students. As of January, Williams had 895 students enrolled in the school. Williams is located on Fort Hamer Road in Parrish.

Prine Elementary School will pick up three relocated classrooms, two from Manatee Technical College and one from Sugg Middle School, to increase school capacity to 879 students. As of January, Prine had 850 students enrolled in the school. Prine is located on Southern Parkway West in the city of Bradenton.

Blackburn's capacity will be reduced to 820 based on the move. As of January, Blackburn had 434 students enrolled. Blackburn is located on 17th Street East in Palmetto.

Tara's capacity will be reduced to 809 based on the move. As of January, Tara had 527 students enrolled. Tara is located on Linger Lodge Road East in East Manatee.

Lincoln Middle's capacity will be reduced to 1,012 based on the move. As of January, Lincoln had 534 students enrolled. Lincoln is located on 17th Street East in Palmetto.

Sugg Middle's capacity will be reduced to 950 based on the move. As of January, Sugg had 767 students enrolled. Sugg is located on 59th Street West in Bradenton.

Manatee Technical College's capacity at the 34th Street West campus in Bradenton will be 2,708 based on the move, according to the report. Manatee Tech has a main campus on State Road 70, and campuses on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Ninth Street West in Palmetto and 34th Street West in Bradenton. The moving portables are from the 34th Street West campus.

Manatee Tech Director Doug Wagner said the portables will not affect the school because the portables haven't been used since the new main campus building opened.

"They weren't being utilized," he said.

Overall, Manatee Tech served 4,200 students last year.

The district has hired a company to help with long-term planning, as the district's enrollment continues to grow each year. The company, DeJong-Richter, will look at a number of variables, including enrollment capacity and enrollment trends, and may recommend to the district how and if to change zoning patterns, how many and if the district needs to build new schools and where they should go.

The board approved the $195,000 contract with the Ohio-based company on April 28.

District officials have already said they need at least a new high school and elementary school in 2018 and a new middle school in 2019. To do so, the district may turn to taxpayers for more money through a referendum.

The district may ask taxpayers to approve a $150 million bond, to approve extending the sales tax beyond 2017 and to approve increasing the millage.

In addition, the district is exploring the possibility of reinstating the impact fee, a tax on new homes, to make ends meet and to fund construction costs for new schools. A study on the proposal is under way and must be completed before impact fees could start being collected again. The study should be completed by the end of the year.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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