School rezoning plan balances student capacities in Panama City Beach

Published 02/08 2016 07:36PM

Updated 02/08 2016 07:36PM

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

It was only a matter of time. The Chairman of the Bay County School Board said members will have to look at the growing population in Panama City Beach once again.
"I'd like for us as a board to be proactive, plan for that growth, look at the trends so when it gets here, and I think the growth is definitely going to get to the beach, then we're ready for it," Steve Moss said.
Open Enrollment for School Choice is going on, but for parents hoping to move their elementary students to a school on the beach, your options are limited.
Students will not be able to school choice into Patronis Elementary School or the elementary grade levels of Breakfast Point Academy next school year. The campuses are still nearly at or over capacity.
"I think rezoning the beach was the right thing to do. I think it did give us some breathing room at some of the schools," he said.
Last Spring, board members voted to reopen West Bay Elementary School to help alleviate overcrowding across the three elementary schools on the beach. They also rezoned about 600 elementary students and shifted them west to different schools.
The superintendent allowed more than 300 rezoned students to stay at their school this year in a hardship application process, which reduced the overall change.
"It might have bought us maybe two years, maybe three at the most before then we're back at full capacity again," Moss said.
As of February this school year, Patronis Elementary is the only school on the beach over capacity at 102%.
The elementary grade levels of Breakfast Point have some room at 95%, which is a big change from 124% this time last school year. Moving west, Hutchison Beach Elementary has the most space with a capacity of 75%.
However, West Bay Elementary in its first school year is nearly full at 92%.
"Even though we rezoned and opened up a brand new school, like we did at West Bay, it might have bought us two maybe three years at the very most before we have to start looking at other options," Moss explained.
Moss said one option he plans to bring up again is building a new school on the east end of the beach. Board members discussed the option when they were looking to reopen West Bay and rezone students.
The St. Joe Company has also donated 210 acres of land for a new campus and sports complex.
"We know this is going to be an issue in regards to more students or more families wanting to move into Bay County so let's plan for that going forward be more proactive than reactive," Moss said.
Moss said the school board has not scheduled a workshop or meeting to discuss building the new school at this time. He said, though, it's a topic that needs to be brought up sooner than later, adding it would take two to three years to build and open a new campus.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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