After only three years since its opening, Parrish Community High School is nearing capacity.
The school was built to serve the growing community of Parrish while easing the stress of Lakewood Ranch High School by drawing some students away from East County.
With the area’s population continuing to grow at a rapid rate, the Manatee County School District decided an addition to Parrish Community High was needed sooner than expected.
The school opened in August 2019 with 535 students enrolled in grades 9 and 10. A grade level was added each year for the next two years.
At the end of this school year, Joe Ranaldi, director of operations for the Manatee County School District, said the school had 1,737 students enrolled, just 306 students short of the school’s capacity of 2,043. students.
“We track the number of housing units and potential housing units,” Ranaldi said. “District-wide, we’re looking at nearly 29,000 additional homes, and we know about half of that is coming from the East Region. With that in mind, with this number of students coming up, at the high school level, we could be looking at almost 1,000 high school students over the next five to seven years.
An addition of 16 classrooms has always been part of Parrish Community High School’s plan. A pad for the addition was built with the new school, but the district did not expect to have to build the actual addition until at least six years after the school opened.
Ranaldi said the Florida Department of Education does not allow districts to build more than necessary, so at the time of planning the Parrish community they could not build what will now be the addition. . The Manatee County School District began planning for Parrish Community High School in 2017.
Now, with the rapid growth of Parrish and the greater Lakewood Ranch area, the district hopes the additions to Parrish Community and Lakewood Ranch High Schools will help accommodate the growth.
“Sometimes you can’t predict how quickly developers are going to complete housing units,” Ranaldi said. “We see at this stage that there will be a need for secondary school student positions in this area depending on the speed at which developments are occurring and the number of developments.”
As the district saw more development projects, Ranaldi said officials knew they needed a new plan.
“We immediately started looking at options, and one of the most economical ways to increase capacity was to use the existing build base that was planned for 2017,” he said.
Ranaldi said the capacity gap of about 300 students in Parrish will be enough to give the district the time it needs to build the classroom addition to the school without overcrowding.
“We thought the existing capacity of 300 people would be used up pretty quickly, and we needed to move forward, especially with the escalating construction costs and all that,” he said. “The sooner we can start construction, the better at this stage.”
As the Parrish addition is under construction, Ranaldi said the district won’t need to put laptops on campus to accommodate students.
Lakewood Ranch High School will have a 22-classroom addition that will include 20 classrooms and two science labs. Designs for the $13.2 million addition project were presented to the Manatee County School Board in January.
The addition will allow the school to stop using the 20 laptops located between Buildings 4 and 5 on the Lakewood Ranch High campus. Laptops will not be removed from campus as it would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to have them removed.
Ranaldi said the district doesn’t have discussions about rezoning because the Lakewood Ranch and Parrish attendance areas are seeing more students.
As growth continues in eastern Manatee County, the district has land for a new high school, but it is not included in the district’s five-year capital plan.
“We might need high school there, but we think the addition we’re making to Lakewood Ranch and the (Parrish) addition will at least get us through that five-year stretch,” Ranaldi said. “Then we’ll start seeing the new high school on our budget.”
The new high school would be located on 103 acres on the north side of East 59th Avenue in Lakewood Ranch, just west of Pope Road.
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