NAVARRE — For the first time since 2007, the Santa Rosa County School District plans to break ground on a new school in the Navarre area.
The two-story, $30.2 million K-8 school will be built on 42 acres west of Elkhart Drive and north of Houston Circle. Modeled after K-8 schools constructed in the St. Johns County School District, it would allow 1,182 students to enroll, including about 450 middle schoolers.
The property was donated to the School District in 2008 by the Petrelis family.
Located between West Navarre Primary and Intermediate schools and Woodlawn Beach Middle School, the new school will relieve overcrowding.
The Intermediate school, the largest elementary in the county, needs more elbow room, Principal Shana Dorsey.
“We use every classroom and every area we have for space,” Dorsey said.
The three schools all have nearly reached their capacity this school year. West Navarre Primary reached 97% of its allotted students, West Navarre Intermediate hit 95% and Woodlawn Beach Middle stands at 91%.
Joey Harrell, assistant superintendent for administration services, said the School District aims to start construction as early as July and be finished by the 2020-21 school year.
A new state law scheduled to take effect July 1 allows the county to use local funds such as the half-cent sales tax if the cost exceeds $30.2 million, district officials said.
“We are eagerly anticipating building and relieving some of the pressures on the other schools,” Harrell said.
The last school the district built was Bennett Russell Elementary in 2007 in Milton west of Avalon Boulevard, but has added more than 75 classrooms to schools since then.
The K-8 design will be the first school of its kind in Santa Rosa County. With skyrocketing land prices, the multi-story school conserves space and saves the School District money on property purchases. Harrell said he and Bill Emerson — assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment — borrowed the model from St. Johns school system. That county opened two K-8 schools this year.
Plans also call for a second K-8 school in Pace on 40 acres the School District bought in 2013. In all, school officials forecast two K-8 schools and two new high schools in the south and north ends to accommodate the growing student population during the next decade.
William Price III said his first job in high school was moving furniture into West Navarre Primary where he is now principal.
“All we had back then was a Ward's Hamburgers,” Price recalled.
Parents of children attending the West Navarre schools are excited about the new K-8 going up.
Shannon Roberts has a daughter in the primary school and a son in the intermediate school.
“A new school is past due,” Roberts said. “It’s disappointing that when it finally gets here it will already be at capacity and our other schools will be bursting at the seams.”
Barbara Taunton, whose son is a fourth-grader at West Navarre Intermediate, said teachers there amaze her with their handling of the lack of space.
“I’ve been waiting for it,” Taunton said of the new K-8 coming. “As a parent, to me this is insane. All the classes blow my mind.”