More portable classrooms, more money and solutions to alleviate traffic congestion are needed to help the Highlands County School District cope with enrollment growth in Lake Placid.
Lake Country Elementary is currently using two portables as classrooms and Lake Placid Elementary is using several portables as classrooms, Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said Tuesday.
For next year, Lake Country has requested an additional portable for classroom use and another for storage, and Lake Placid Elementary has requested another portable, he said.
“We haven’t built that additional [classroom] wing at Lake Country like we have at the other sister schools and until we do, that is why Lake Placid Elementary is going to be overflowing.
“But as soon as we build that other wing, whenever that is, we will do some rezoning and move some of the kids to Lake Country.”
Lake Placid Elementary’s enrollment was 854 and Lake Country Elementary’s enrollment was 607 on March 26.
Right now Lake Placid Elementary has the capacity for the “normal elementary” school, Averyt said. “We don’t want an elementary school with 800 kids, but normally they are at 700.”
A new classroom wing can be built at Lake Country Elementary when the district receives some capital dollars, but he doesn’t know when that will happen, Averyt said.
Along with the increase in enrollment, Averyt noted another reason space is becoming an issue at elementary schools.
For the online/computerized FCAT testing, every elementary school needs two or three computer labs, which takes up classroom space, he said.
Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger added that portables are not used to house computer labs because of security reasons. “It’s too accessible,” he said.
Also related to enrollment growth, the district hopes to alleviate the traffic congestion around Lake Placid Elementary, Lake Placid High and Lake Placid Middle schools, which are located in close proximity to each other off West Interlake Boulevard.
The district is looking to purchase land to relocate its bus compound, which is currently located between the middle school and the high school, Averyt said. Relocating the compound will help with the traffic flow.
Lake Placid Town Manager Phil Williams and Highlands County Director of Emergency Management Scott Canaday are studying ways to improve the traffic flow.
“It’s just a crowded area in the morning,” Williams said. The principal of Lake Placid Elementary (Carey Conner) expressed a concern.
There are three schools shoved together with different schedules, Williams said. He will look closely at it, but he doesn’t want to make a change that will create a different set of problems someplace else.
There are three crossing guards in a small area, “and there are some areas where we might need crossing guards in that we can’t afford guards at,” Williams said.
It’s going to be a matter of looking at it and taking suggestions, he said.
When school lets out for the summer, a road widening project is scheduled to start on West Interlake Drive from Tangerine Avenue to Lake Rachard Drive/Green Dragon Drive that will include a new turning lane.
That should improve traffic flow, Williams said.
Canaday told him he had a suggestion that would “change the whole situation,” Williams said. “I haven’t heard his suggestion.” They haven’t had time to meet.
Canaday said he wouldn’t reveal his ideas because he hasn’t yet spoken to the school district or the Town of Lake Placid.
“It’s just stuff I have got on paper that I want to run past them and see if it will work,” he said. “I have got to see how their buses run; I don’t know what the schedule is or anything like that.”