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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2020 1 month ago

Slow growth of Flagler student population suggests rezoning, not building new schools

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Today, Flagler Schools buildings are at 90% capacity. Impact fees will be evaluated next.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

The K-12 population in Flagler Schools is projected to grow by 2%, or about 292 students, in the next 10 years, according to a consultant’s report at the School Board meeting June 16. That means that no new schools are likely needed; instead, rezoning can help to alleviate any capacity challenges, though no rezoning will happen before the 2020 school year begins.

The demographic data will also be used as the district revisits its impact fees, which are used to build new schools or pay off debt from current buildings. The impact fees currently in place are based on a 2004 study, and, by state law, it’s supposed to use the latest data available, according to School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin.

 

Which schools are impacted?

The consultant, Christopher Melendez with David Demographics, said that although there are 3,795 new homes projected to be built in the district’s boundaries in the next 10 years, the birth rate is low, possibly due to the higher average age of new move-ins.

“What is being projected doesn’t equate to us building a new school any time soon."

KRISTY GAVIN, School Board attorney

The school that is projected to be the most impacted by the growth in the next decade is Old Kings Elementary School, which could have an additional 241 students. It’s already over capacity, according to Dave Freeman, director of plant services.

Rymfire and Wadsworth elementary schools are expected to see the largest drop in students, each losing 9% of their enrollment in 10 years.

High school enrollment may increase by 4% to approximately 4,725 students over the next 10 years, the report states.

Davis Demographics recommended to the district that growth could be managed through adding portables and limiting ability of students to transfer.

 

Middle school options

One option the board may consider in the future is whether to adjust elementary schools so that they serve kindergarten to fifth grade, instead of kindergarten to sixth grade.

Dave Freeman, director of plant services

Flagler Schools has 982 sixth graders this year, and if all of them were moved from elementary school to middle school, the over-capacity elementary schools would be brought under capacity, Freeman said. Also, the middle schools would not be overcapacity even if sixth grade were to be added.

That plan could be complicated by the transfer policy.

Today, Flagler Schools has an open transfer policy, meaning students don’t need to provide any reason for a desire to attend a school outside of his or her zoned school. Unlimited transfers impact middle schools the most, with 224 students attending Indian Trails Middle School that, according to where they live, should be attending Buddy Taylor Middle School. Conversely, only 20 students from Indian Trails’ district attend Buddy Taylor.

School Board member Colleen Conklin pointed out that transfers could complicate the board’s plans for adjusting capacity in the future.

“Is it wide open, or do you put parameters in place so that you don’t have 200 individuals leaving a zoned area?” she asked.

 

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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