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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Board to vote on land buy for school

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LAND O' LAKES - Oakstead Elementary, Pasco's largest elementary school, already serves about 350 more students than it was built for, and that has Pasco County school district officials wary as they eye future growth.

Housing developments planned in the school's attendance zone could eventually bring an additional 1,200 students to the already packed campus.

The district isn't waiting to find out what that would be like.

The school board is set to vote Tuesday on a contract to buy 22 acres for a future elementary school site in the Smith 54 mixed-use housing development on the south side of State Road 54, about 1.5 miles east of the Suncoast Parkway. The board would pay the developers about $2.2 million, or $101,500 an acre.

The district sought two appraisals, according to a memorandum to the school board. One said the land was worth $85,000 an acre. The other said it was worth $130,000 an acre.

Chris Williams, planning director for the school district, said there is no firm timetable for when the elementary school might be built. It could be five to 10 years from now, though Oakstead's growth could make it "a school that's going to be sooner rather than later in the grand scheme of things," Williams said.

Oakstead, built in 2006 with a capacity of 762 students, had an enrollment of 1,114 in the school year that just ended. It is the only elementary school in Pasco County that serves more than 1,000 students, and 24 portable classrooms are needed to deal with the overflow.

The next largest elementary school is Seven Oaks Elementary in Wesley Chapel, which had 970 students this past school year.

Oakstead could see its crowding ease at least somewhat in the next couple of years when the district rebuilds Sanders Memorial Elementary, an old school that was mostly demolished a few years ago.

At most, though, Sanders would be able to take about 200 students from Oakstead, leaving it still well over capacity, Williams said. The bulk of Oakstead's students live west of the school, so rezoning a large chunk of them for Sanders, which is northeast of Oakstead, would be problematic because the children would have to be bused past Oakstead to get to Sanders.

Although Pasco County's growth has slowed since Oakstead opened, the school is situated in an area off S.R. 54 between U.S. 41 and the Suncoast Parkway where 6,863 homes have already been approved for construction, the district reports.

The big question is just how quickly those homes get built. Although Pasco isn't growing a rapidly as it was 10 years ago, some growth is still happening along the S.R. 54 corridor, Williams said.

When those homes - and the students that come with them - finally come to fruition, the district will need two more schools in the Oakstead area, not just one, Williams said.

So far, the district doesn't have land for the second school, but is on the lookout, he said.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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