By CHARLES A. BAKER III | Staff Writer
POLK COUNTY – During a June 18 work session, the Polk County School Board authorized staff to continue working with area property owners in an attempt to purchase land for three new public schools in the Four Corners area.
School board staff say there are not many empty pieces of property left in the Four Corners area large enough to build a school, that prices are rising fast and that all of the schools in that area of the county are projected to be at capacity soon.
Staff said they are looking at 37 acres west of U.S. 27 and south of Interstate 4, in between Haines City and Davenport, for a future middle school. A 25-acre tract of land nearby is also for sale and could be used for a new elementary school. Staff are also looking at a 95-acre parcel of land east of U.S. 27, near the Polk-Lake County line, for a future high school.
The Polk County School Board has already authorized a plan to build an $80 million “high school of the future” by 2021, in the area near ChampionsGate.
Polk County School Board member Lori Cunningham said she believes as soon as this high school opens, it will immediately be at capacity and another high school will need to be built.
School staff suggest buying property for the three new schools won’t be cheap, with prices around $150,000 to $200,000 per acre. Impact fees may cover half of the cost of purchasing land. Impact fees are fees paid by real estate developers whenever they want to build houses in areas were infrastructure is limited.
Polk County School Board member Sara Beth Reynolds expressed concern about redistricting. Whenever a new school opens, some students need to be transferred to the new school. With all the new schools being considered in that part of the county, Reynolds expressed concern that some students may be getting transferred multiple times. Reynolds and other board members expressed support for giving parents as much advance notice as possible.
Staff said if everything goes as planned, the second traditional public high school in the Davenport/Four Corners area of Polk County may be built by 2028.
“(Growth) is just insane up there,” Cunningham said. “There is no other way to put it”
Contact Charles A. Baker III at firstname.lastname@example.org.