LAND O'LAKES — The growth of Pasadena Hills in central-east Pasco County remains years in the future, but when it's built out, it could have nearly 45,000 homes.
The Pasco School Board wants to be ready.
So instead of sitting back until development is done and then scrambling for land to build new schools, the board has cut a deal to acquire property for a new high school in the area now. The board unanimously agreed late Tuesday to buy 98 acres on Handcart Road north of Eiland Boulevard for $2.8-million.
"When I got here, there was no land and the need for 15 schools," superintendent Heather Fiorentino said. "Now we are trying to bank land for future schools. And we know where the growth will be."
By snatching up the property well before demand peaks, officials said, the district was able to secure a price that's cheap in comparison to recent efforts to find sites for high schools in already built communities, such as Hudson and Holiday.
"We weren't able to compete in the market and the prices were high" for the Chicago Avenue site where High School EEE is slated to open in 2009, assistant superintendent Ray Gadd said. "We think (the Pasadena Hills deal) was a great price."
The board will pay $28,500 per acre for the land, less than half of what it cost to buy into some of the other communities, Gadd said.
Plans to actually build a Pasadena Hills high school do not appear in the district's 10-year outlook. But when the time comes, the district now has a site. It will continue to look for land for other schools in the area, too, but finding locations for high schools is most difficult, because many people don't like the traffic, lighting and noise associated with them.
Gadd told the School Board his department will post signs alerting future residents that a high school will rise on the Handcart Road site.
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.