I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

District Facilities Challenges/More than One Potential Solution

A Special Meeting Will Be Held on July 20th to Address the Facilities Building Plans Going Forward

I appreciated the facilities handouts brought to the meeting of the Escambia County School Board for the workshop yesterday.

We’re on the cusp of a major building campaign now that the ½ cent sales tax referendum has passed and now that the construction bond authorization is in place.

The problem I have is that I believe some of what is planned is unnecessary and that there are alternate plans that could be considered that could also tackle the district’s growth/capacity challenges and issues in a different more creative way that would save the taxpayers money.

Just because we have money to spend, does not mean we ought not find the BEST solution when spending it.

And none of what was presented yesterday addresses the ongoing over-crowding at Jim Bailey Middle School in Southwest Escambia.

One thing that I understand is that if we can get 32 acres of land in Beulah for a reasonable price—we need to do this and we will be voting on this tonight.

I disagree with the assessment that “This is too big for an elementary school and it can only be used to build a middle school.”   That logic does not hold water.  We use what portion of the 32 acre parcel of land we need for either an elementary or a middle school, and hold the additional land for a sale later at a better price—as prices are appreciating in this area.

But we desperately need to fix the issues at Bailey.  Hoping that Warrington Middle will improve on the second year or the third year or the fourth year of “the one year turnaround” –attracting students back in the process---is not the solution.  Bailey is bursting at the seams and Warrington is down to just 650 students.  Students are leaving Warrington to come to Bailey!

If we swapped Woodham M.S.  with West Florida Tech H.S.  we would have plenty of additional Middle School Capacity.  And Ransom’s northern boundary could be moved south, allowing Ernest Ward Middle school to take some of Ransom’s students if additional capacity was needed.  (Ernest Ward is underutilized by as many as 200 students).

Brown Barge should be left where it is, upgraded as appropriate with a gymnasium and track, and this together with WMS/WFHS swap and the Ransom northern boundary adjustment solves the Middle School Capacity issue.

We should build a new Elementary School in Beulah to get ahead of the MASSIVE influx of new students that will be coming as a result of the geometric growth and building that is happening in Beulah right now.  Taking 300 students from Beulah up to a new Elementary School up near Ransom still leaves Beulah with 700 students---and when the current construction projects in Beulah are completed Beulah will once again quickly be over capacity and we will once again be bringing portables back to Beulah.  That is not responsible.  

The reality:  There will be enough students in the Beulah ES attendance zone to fill 2 elementary schools while simultaneously reducing pine Meadow’s attendance down to an acceptable level.  This is how we should proceed.

The pictures below represent the first estimate (prior to SAZAC tackling the issue) of what moving Woodham Middle School over to Beulah would do to the current attendance boundaries of area middle schools.

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