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Brand-new school is adding a $10M wing, another sign of Pasco’s growth

Starkey Ranch K-8 is projected to have 2,100 students in the fall, up about 500 from the school year just ended.
Starkey Ranch K-8 School, which opened in the 2021-22 academic year, is scheduled to get a 26,000-square-foot addition to handle growth.
Starkey Ranch K-8 School, which opened in the 2021-22 academic year, is scheduled to get a 26,000-square-foot addition to handle growth. [ Pasco County Schools ]
Published Jun. 7|Updated Jun. 7

LAND O’ LAKES — Pasco County’s newest school already has outgrown its buildings.

Located along the booming State Road 54 corridor, Starkey Ranch K-8 School, which opened in August, is slated to get a $10 million, 26,000-square-foot classroom addition. The construction, approved by the School Board on Tuesday, is supposed to begin this year and be ready in 2024.

The school is set to get eight portable classrooms in the meantime.

At issue is the booming growth within the Starkey Ranch subdivision that the campus serves, in addition to the rising enrollment countywide.

Related: Three Pasco County schools get new principals

Starkey Ranch ended the school year with 1,568 children attending, and is expected to have nearly 2,100 enrolled in the fall. The community had 452 school-age children living there in 2020, and is projected to have 1,431 by the time all the housing there is built out over the coming months.

The school also has about 500 children attending its magnet programs, which have been closed to new enrollment.

“It’s good. People want to go there,” School Board member Colleen Beaudoin said.

Overall, the district has seen student population increase to 73,578 children in the most recent school year, up from 69,217 in 2018, according to the Florida Department of Education. Those numbers do not include charter schools, which comprise about 9 percent of Pasco’s public school enrollment.

Nearby Bexley Elementary School had a similar trajectory, opening in 2017 and adding a classroom wing in 2020.

Board members said they had heard some questions about why Starkey Ranch would get an addition so quickly, compared to fast-growth schools in other parts of the county, some of which never have been expanded.

The school district has an agreement with the county that the K-8 school will serve the subdivision, and not be just a magnet. It designed the campus for growth, assistant superintendent Betsy Kuhn said, and officials decided to move on it as they could.

The project fits into a larger construction program, district planning director Chris Williams said. Other schools, such as perpetually crowded Wiregrass Ranch High and Oakstead Elementary, might benefit from new wings, Williams said, but the district has had new schools on the books to absorb the growth instead.

No one wants to build extensions that would soon go unused, he said. “We want to be careful of that.”

Board member Alison Crumbley said she has heard from neighbors that they expect to send their children to Starkey K-8, and she supported the construction project. She said she hoped the district would continue to look for more ways to handle growth in other parts of Pasco, noting that budgets and state requirements don’t allow for everything to happen at once.

“I just want to see all schools getting this,” Crumbley said.

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