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  1. Gradebook

Pasco officials look to school additions as sales tax money rolls in

New wings can rise faster than new schools, superintendent Kurt Browning says.

Penny for Pasco sales tax collections could provide enough money for the fast-growing school district to add more new projects to its construction and renovation list.

A district report to its sales tax oversight committee showed the tax has generated $110.3 million since its renewal, nearly 20 percent more than projected. If the revenue continues on this pace, they showed, the district would end up with an added $44.2 million beyond what it anticipated for the 10-year tax.

To put this in perspective, a new K-8 school is projected to cost about $60 million. The district already has plans in place for Starkey K-8 in Trinity, Cypress Creek Middle in Wesley Chapel and an east side technical high school.

Beyond that, superintendent Kurt Browning said, the likely result will not be entire new campuses, but rather wings added to existing ones. The first two up for consideration are Bexley Elementary and Sunlake High, both of which sit along the booming State Road 54 corridor.

“You’re going to see our response to growth is adding additional classroom space with wings, and additional dining facilities for those students,” Browning said. “You can build a wing a lot faster than you can build an entire school.”

That would allow the district to accommodate for growth more rapidly, he said, while also keeping administrative costs down because wings do not require leadership as new schools do.

Looking farther ahead, Browning said his team is considering building new schools larger than in the past.

He noted that new elementary schools such as Bexley have been built for 762 students, even though long-term projections indicate the student numbers are likely to quickly exceed that capacity.

“Then we start popping portables on it,” Browning said. “It makes no sense to me.”

Sunlake had some of its students reassigned to Cypress Creek High when it opened in 2017, but campus remains crowded. The school has used a “seventh-period lunch” to allow as many as 250 seniors to leave campus early, easing the impact on the cafeteria.

He expected to bring the concept of wing additions and larger schools to the School Board in the next few months.