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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jun. 8, 2021 5 days ago

VCS budgets for rebuilding schools, board expresses interest in redistricting

A renovation for Spruce Creek High School is coming soon. But, the school is at 119% capacity. Is that an issue?
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

With an $80 million bond on the horizon that will help fund five years of major projects, including a master plan for a new Tomoka Elementary Elementary, the Volusia County School Board instructed staff to explore redistricting to aid schools that are currently over capacity, and, to reassess other future construction projects, particularly those that consist of a renovation rather than building new.

At the School Board workshop on Monday, June 7, board members were presented with a tentative capital budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In addition to the bond, the district is projecting $123 million of revenue — comprised of funding sources like the half-cent sales tax, state dollars, and ad valorem taxes to name a few. This, along with the district's restricted fund balance, will go toward $290 million worth of expenditures. 

But as the board examined the list of projects, questions arose regarding renovating certain schools in need of repairs, an action Board Member Jamie Haynes wondered whether it would benefit the students in the long run. 

“We’re piecemealing Woodward [Elementary]," she said. 'We’re going to spend almost $21 million just to do some renovations and additions.”

A new Turie T. Small Elementary is estimated to cost $26 million. 

Another large project on the horizon is the remodeling of Spruce Creek High School. The estimated $19 million project will include the design and construction of a new two-story classroom building to replace the current portables, which is budgeted for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. According to the district's presentation, Volusia County Schools may have to bond approximately $75-100 million in fiscal year 2026-2027, which will help finance the project.

Volusia County Schools Superintendent Scott Fritz informed the board that Spruce Creek is at 119% capacity. Its population is over 2,600 students. In contrast, Atlantic High School in Port Orange has about 1,400 students. 

As conversation revolved around looking into redistricting schools that are over-capacity, School Board member Linda Cuthbert pointed out that Spruce Creek is ranked among the top 100 schools in the nation and that its international baccalaureate program is highly successful. The school's 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian are both attending Ivy League schools. Spruce 

"We have to service an IB school, especially when we’re touting it," Cuthbert said.

Fritz said that redistricting could be a possibility in the future, but said to the board that there likely won't be any more school merging like the recent Osceola and Ortona merger as the district needs to concentrate on bringing their enrollment numbers back up to pre-COVID-19 numbers. 

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