School district looks at impact of future housing growth

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 10/10/18

FLEMING ISLAND – With housing growth currently on the rise and on the horizon as well, the Clay County School District is bracing for a wave of new students.

Jim Fossa, planning coordinator for …

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School district looks at impact of future housing growth

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – With housing growth currently on the rise and on the horizon as well, the Clay County School District is bracing for a wave of new students.

Jim Fossa, planning coordinator for the district, told school board members Oct. 4 to act now for the growth that will follow the final phase of the First Coast Expressway. In his role, Fossa gets to see firsthand how much development is in the works as he also sits on the Clay County Planning Commission.

“Every roof is a potential student in one of our schools,” Fossa said. “The more houses, the more students. It’s that simple.”

Fossa said that while not every family is guaranteed to have a child, the number of houses built in an area can give a rough estimate of how many students will live in that area. For example, in the Lake Asbury area, already, seven developments have gone into the county building record and will soon be filled with homes. Fossa estimates that these seven developments, which will bring 3,547 homes to the area, will bring 885 new students.

These students will likely go to school in the area and impact the student census at either Lake Asbury Elementary or Shadowlawn Elementary, Lake Asbury Junior High and Clay High schools. Most of these schools aren’t too far off from hitting capacity. Once those schools welcome in a percentage of the expected 885 students, Fossa said some of the schools could very well hit capacity or go over it.

“It’s not a guarantee that we have the capabilities and space at our schools for that many students,” Fossa said.

This area isn’t alone, either. In the Fleming Island and Black Creek areas, there are already eight developments on record as going into the area. These eight developments will bring in 466 homes and roughly 274 projected students. While that’s not nearly as many potential students when compared to the Lake Asbury area, the schools in this area are close to capacity. Paterson Elementary on Fleming Island is already at 98 percent.

“The only reason we’re at 98 percent and not at or over capacity is because we just added three portables,” Fossa said.

Of all the regions, though, the region of Clay County with schools closest to capacity is the Oakleaf/Middleburg area. Most of these schools’ capacities are less than 5 percent away from capacity, with some schools, like Oakleaf High School already exceeding capacity.

“Our schools are pretty full here,” Fossa said. “That area is already booming, but there another 10 developments going in, which equates to just over 3,000 homes, will bring in roughly 739 students. Our school board needs to determine what to do with numbers like that.”

These numbers don’t even take into account the two Developments of Regional Impact coming to Clay County. The Governor’s Park and Saratoga Springs DRIs will bring over 10,000 homes to the county(when at final buildout), which Fossa estimates will bring in 4,747 students. These students coupled with the 3,338 students county developments are expected to bring in mean one thing and one thing only to Fossa.

“We need more schools,” Fossa said. “There’s no way around it.”

Fossa said he hopes that the school board and the district work together to be proactive rather than reactive to this incoming growth. The first step for the school district, according to Fossa, is to determine funding. The district needs to build schools and naturally, it needs money to do so.

Even with impact fees, the district is still $91 million short of the funding needed to build necessary schools. Because of that, Fossa urged the school board and staff to begin preparations now.

To be proactive, Fossa recommended that the district prepare now by determining funding stream alternatives. He also warned that if the district fails to be proactive, the school district will see more portables and accelerated construction timelines meaning higher building costs.

“How will 2028 Clay County look back at us?” Fossa asked. “Will they see that we prepared them for the future or will they see that we left them a mess?”

The school board did not take action on Fossa’s presentation, but took it under advisement for future planning.

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