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East County Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021 8 months ago

Growth in the Lakewood Ranch-area leads to more school construction

Renovations planned for seven Lakewood Ranch-area schools, along with a new school.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

School District of Manatee County officials said they will be proactive in addressing area growth with their five-year capital plan. 

“We do have a couple of items that were not on our last five-year capital plan, but due to enormous growth we’ve experienced in the last year, we have suggested moving some of those up so we are prepared and ahead of the curve,” said Cynthia Saunders, the superintendent of the district.

The district plans to construct a new K-8 school on a 40-acre site a quarter-mile east of Uihlein Road and south of Academic Avenue in Lakewood Ranch. The district has two existing K-8 schools, but the schools were converted from existing facilities.  

A new K-8 school will be built on a 40-acre site 40-acre site a quarter-mile east of Uihlein Road and south of Academic Avenue in Lakewood Ranch.

Saunders said although wings have been added to schools like B.D. Gullett and Robert E. Willis elementary schools, those schools and Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School are either near capacity or over capacity. 

Dr. Mona Jain Middle School, which opened two years ago, already is close to capacity. 

"There's no way with the number of (housing) permits pulled out in the east part of the county that we're going to be able to keep up with it," Saunders said. "(The new K-8 school) was slated to come online in about four years. There's no way. From the time you start to design to get it finished, you're looking at two to three years. We need it ready to be populated. We need to start this year."

The tentative plan includes additions at Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools, Braden River, Carlos E. Haile, R. Dan Nolan middle schools and Freedom and Tara elementary schools to help with overcrowding at some schools and increase capacity at the schools. 

With new additions at Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools, Saunders hopes the district can hold off on constructing a new high school in East County until at least fiscal year 2026-2027. 

"We don't want to have to pull the trigger on it until we have to because that's just such an expensive item," Saunders said. "We would rather get all these other projects and things in place. None of the new growth is going to eliminate our existing commitments of older school renovations. Those have to be done because we have to make sure that everyone has an equal facility."

Saunders said many middle schools were built for around 800 students, but with the growth the county is seeing, middle schools should be constructed for about 1,200 students. Many high school capacities sit around 1,700 to 1,800 students, but Saunders said the schools should have space for 2,000 to 2,200 students. Elementary schools should be constructed for about 800 students, Saunders said. 

Also to help with the acceleration of capital projects, the School Board of Manatee County unanimously approved last October a resolution that allows the district to borrow up to $100 million in certificates of participation for capital projects. 

"By doing this, not only are we avoiding inflationary costs, which last year they were running 7% and more recently from construction firms its running more 9% with some materials, but we're also pulling projects forward in the timeline so the students, staff and community all benefit from these projects much sooner than later," Bargeron said. 

Some of the $100 million will go toward renovations and additions at Tara Elementary School and Carlos E. Haile Middle School.

Here are projects that are tentatively planned for the next five years in East County:


New K-8 school

To be located on a 40-acre site a quarter-mile east of Uihlein Road and south of Academic Avenue in Lakewood Ranch 

  • $1.5 million for design and planning in 2021-2022
  • Total budget: To be determined
  • Elementary school to be built in 2022-2023
  • Middle school to be built in 2024-2025
  • Capacity: 1,500 students
  • Total project cost: To be determined


Lakewood Ranch High School students make their way to the portables for class. A new wing at the school means the school won't have as many, if any, portables. File photo.

Lakewood Ranch High School

20-classroom, two-story addition 

  • Budget: $16,498,522
  • Project scheduled for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023
  • Estimated completion date fall 2023


Braden River High School

10-classroom addition

  • Budget: $8.56 million
  • Project scheduled for 2022-2023


Braden River Middle School

Renovation and six-classroom addition 

The expansion and renovation of Braden River Middle School's cafeteria is complete. Courtesy photo.
  • Budget: $26 million
  • Scope of work: Comprehensive campuswide renovation that includes new ceilings, ductwork, lighting, paint, flooring and technology, as well as upgraded restrooms, enlarged cafeteria, enhanced campus security and reconfigured media center and administration area
  • Addition scheduled to continue in 2021-2022
  • Renovation scheduled to continue in 2021 through 2022
  • Total project completion is expected in August 2022


Carlos E. Haile Middle School

Renovation and 10-classroom, two-story addition

  • Budget: $36,152,400
  • Will use certificate of participation funds 
  • Scope of work: Renovation of entire school and 10-classroom addition and associated covered walkway to replace portables
  • Adds 889 student stations
  • Timeline: Architect and construction manager advertisement to be posted in November; Architect and construction manager selection will take place in December; Design phases will take place from December to July; Designs will be complete in July; Construction will begin in August 2022 with an estimated completion in July 2024. 


Tara Elementary School students make their way to lunch. The school is scheduled for renovations and an addition. Courtesy photo.

Tara Elementary School

Renovation and four- to six-classroom addition

  • Budget: Almost $30 million
  • Will use certificate of participation funds
  • Scope of work: Replace roof and covered walkways as needed and the renovation of the school's mechanical systems; wing addition
  • Timeline: Castaldi analysis submitted to Department of Education in September; Architect and construction manager advertisement to be posted in September; Architect and construction manager will be selected in November; Castaldi analysis Department of Education approval is expected in January; Design phases are from November to July 2022; Designs expected to be completed in July 2022; Construction will begin August 2022 with an estimated completion in July 2024.


R. Dan Nolan Middle School

Eight-classroom addition

  • Budget: Almost $6 million
  • Project scheduled for 2023-2024 and 2024-2025


Freedom Elementary School

Eight-classroom addition

  • Budget: $3.9 million
  • Project scheduled for 2021-2022

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