Change could soon be coming for Southwest Gainesville students as the district works to rezone the area for the August opening of a new elementary school being built in the area.
The Alachua County School Board heard plans for the first time at a Wednesday meeting for what students will attend, or be zoned for, a new elementary school aimed at addressing overcrowding and inequities.
The school, currently known as Elementary I, is being built at 3999 SW 122nd St. The school can serve up to 900 students with its funding through the half-cent sales tax initiative passed by county voters in 2018. The county tax raises money for school district projects like the new elementary school and updates or remodels on school campuses across the county.
The school board will continue to meet throughout the fall and into 2021 to select the school zone and make possible adjustments to surrounding zones.
Developing new zoning plans will ease strains on existing schools, said John Gilreath, a Geographic Information Systems manager.
Overcrowded elementary schools are mainly in the area west of I-75, such as southwest Gainesville, Gilreath said.
For example, Idylwild Elementary School is at 126% capacity, Gilreath said. The school has more than 700 students instead of the 557 student limit.
Like Idylwild, Meadowbrook is also overcrowded. The school, which opened in 2012, was forced to use portables, which the district is trying to phase out, he said.
Gilreath proposed three potential options to avoid pitfalls from the past to avoid with Elementary I. The zoning will consider student locations, transportation, demographics, development trends, land use and school capacity, he added.
One option would draw district boundaries based on geographic locations and current school capacity. To Gilreath, it doesn’t fully address overcrowding or planned development in the area.
The other two plans would consider matching the breakdown of students to the demographic make-up of the county to make schools more representative.
This means that each school zone would work to be representative of the county’s demographics, he said. Alachua County is made up of about 60% white, 20% Black, 10% Hispanic and 10% other residents.
The school board will continue to gather feedback from impacted principals and community members. The school zone will be selected by late January or early February.
“This is a community mural,” he said. “This is not an individual portrait. We need everyone’s input on this to make it a success.”