School District learns it must soon address county’s rapid growth to keep pace

County also reports record 93.4% for 2019-20 school year

Clay Today | by Wesley LeBlanc | January 13, 2020

CLAY COUNTY – The district’s schools are bursting at the seams and the stress will only continue to grow if the county doesn’t soon address the thousands of people who move to the county every month.

That was the message Clay County School District coordinator of planning and intergovernmental relations, James Fossa, stressed during the first school board meeting of the year on Jan. 7. The district will need to make moves this year in order to meet the incoming demand of growth.

“In this case, the students at the school outnumber the number of seats we have there,” Fossa said when explaining Oakleaf High’s capacity currently is at 106%.

Oakleaf is the only high school with a capacity more than 100%, but other schools like Middleburg High, which sits at 98%, are getting close. In the case of Oakleaf, however, the growth shows no signs of slowing down as nine new developments are under construction or in the planning stages.

The capacity of the high school is 2,450 students. There are 2,607 attending today and Fossa projects that another 230 students soon will be added to the school as a result of the incoming development.

“If we do nothing, Oakleaf High [will rise to] 115% and…it will continue to grow,” Fossa said. “That’s something we need to look at.”

Another area of the district Fossa believes the district needs to focus on is the Lake Asbury area. Lake Asbury Junior High currently sits at 83% capacity, but Fossa said there’s a secret factor hiding within that number.

“You might say, ‘Oh, 83%’s not too bad,’ but there’s an [Exceptional Student Education] factor we’re not including,” Fossa said. “Each classroom can be 23 or 25 or what have you and they may or may not [have] that many students in there and because there’s a large ESE population at Lake Asbury, we know [many seats in classrooms aren’t being used].

“You might have a room with 25 seats, but there might only be five used…so you have an artificial number there.”

Fossa said the capacity taking into account the school’s ESE numbers sit closer to 88% and that with all the new neighborhood development planned for the area, he projects the non-ESE number to rise to 113%, or 117% with the ESE factor taken into account.

“There’s a way forward though: a board workshop,” Fossa said. “We can present, examine and develop options to remedy the currency problem with boundary alignment.”

Boundary realignment would allow the district to redraw school boundary lines and redirect students to different schools in an effort to reduce the capacity of high-capacity schools like Oakleaf High and Lake Asbury Junior High.

In other news, Superintendent David Broskie announced the graduation rate for the last school year was 93.4%, which is the highest in district history. It marks an 8.7-point increase from 2015 to now, and puts Clay County’s graduation rate at No. 6 in the state out of 67 school counties. The Clay County School District outpaced the state’s average graduation rate by 3.4% points, according to Broskie.

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