LAND O'LAKES — Three years after opening, Oakstead Elementary in Odessa has become Pasco County's most populous K-5 school, with 22 portable classrooms out back.
On Tuesday, the Pasco School Board agreed to buy 20 acres from the Diocese of St. Petersburg on Community Drive, south of State Road 54. The site is slated to house a 762-student school, which officials hope to open by August 2010.
The price is $850,000.
Purchasing the property solves a "serious crowding problem," assistant superintendent Ray Gadd told the board, "however this contract does not solve all our problems."
He explained that the district remains in negotiations with a nearby homeowners association for the most convenient access to the site. The talks could lead to the purchase of another acre of land.
"We feel pretty confident about how our negotiations are going with the homeowners association," Gadd said.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg also plans to build a church on the site. Gadd said the diocese and school district use a common architect, and that could expedite some of the work.
Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she would have preferred a site that more students could walk to.
"But our hands were tied" by limited availability of affordable property in this area, she said.
With two ways in and out, she said, "that makes the site a little better for me."
In other business, the board:
• Recognized retiring School Board member Marge Whaley for her 16 years of service on the board.
• Recognized 35 schools for receiving the Five-Star Award for volunteer service. Wiregrass Ranch High was one of 74 statewide to get the top honors of Gold Star and Silver Star.
• Approved on first reading an anti-bullying and harassment policy.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.