Volusia County Schools considers rezoning students to address capacity levels at schools
The district expects more than 200,000 new homes to soon be built in the Halifax and southeast area of the county, affecting capacity levels as developers can "reserve" student stations.
| 12:00 p.m. August 9, 2023
Ormond Beach Observer
Last school year, four out of the five elementary schools in Ormond Beach were identified as being over capacity.
With the exception of Beachside Elementary — which moved to its new 750-student campus in January — capacity levels during the 2022-2023 school year at Ormond’s elementary schools ranged from 101% at Pine Trail Elementary to 111% at Pathways Elementary. And capacity levels at Tomoka and Ormond Beach Elementary weren’t far behind, at 104% and 110%, respectively.
According to projections reported by Volusia County Schools during a School Board workshop on Tuesday, Aug. 8, overcapacity is expected to worsen at OBE and Pathways due to upcoming residential development. By the 2025-2026 school year, the district predicts capacity levels of 120% at OBE and 117% at Pathways.
Tomoka’s capacity levels are expected to drop to 77% because the school’s campus is being rebuilt and will have 850 student stations.
“Those of you who are on the east side, then you know, there are a lot of developments going on in Ormond Beach out there by Plantation Oaks, out there on LPGA,” VCS Chief Operating Officer Earl Johnson said.
Johnson said the district expects that 202,588 new units — single-family and multifamily — will soon be constructed in the county’s greater Halifax and southeast area.
The district used birthrate data to predict the number of students who will be entering kindergarten in five years, Johnson explained. The School Board will discuss capacity at high schools, especially Spruce Creek High School, at a later date.
How full were local middle schools during the 2022-2023 school year? Hinson was 108% over capacity, and Ormond Beach Middle School was 84% full. Neighboring Holly Hill K-8 was 102% over capacity.
By 2025-2026, Hinson and Holly Hill K-8 are projected to remain over capacity at 104% and 105%.
Capacity at OBMS is expected to drop to 79%.
The district’s stated capacity figures include student stations reserved by developers for proposed developments. For example, there were 690 students enrolled in Pine Trail Elementary by the 20th day of school in the 2022-2023 school year, which is less than the 786 total capacity available. But because 106 student stations were reserved for upcoming development, the district calculated the school’s capacity at 101%.
Once the district reserves capacity for a planned development, the developer’s “reservations” last three years.
Many developers, Johnson said, began reserving capacity in the 2022-2023 school year.
The district is considering rezoning more students to improve school capacity levels.
The first phase of rezoning already occurred for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, which starts Monday, Aug. 14: Students in Champion, Pathways, Pine Trail and Longstreet Elementary schools were rezoned to Beachside and Westside.
“This coming year, we’ll see how the implementation will look like, how the changes to the enrollment will look like,” said Lisa Divina, coordinator of business and planning for VCS.
Phase 2 is planned for the 2024-2025 school year. The district is proposing moving 77 students living south of International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach from Beachside Elementary to the new Turie T. Small Elementary.
To improve capacity at Holly Hill K-8, 364 middle school students would be rezoned to OBMS, and 95 students living in an area south of Mason Avenue, north of George W. Engram Boulevard, east of Nova Road and west of Ridgewood Avenue in Daytona Beach would be rezoned to Campbell Middle School from OBMS.
Those changes would bring the capacity levels at OBMS and Campbell to 105%, but the district is also considering constructing a new classroom building at Hinson, which would alter the projections.
“If we were to add a classroom building to Hinson, which is right in the middle of Campbell and Ormond Beach, then that would give us an opportunity to level those services out even further,” said Ron Young, director of business and planning for VCS.
Reducing the 'island effect'
Turie T. Small is slated to open its new campus by 2024-2025, and the rezoning is designed to reduce the number of “islands” where students are bused to a school they wouldn’t normally be zoned for.
The plan all along has been to bring students back to their community schools, so they’re not bused to schools far from home, School Board Chair Jamie Haynes said.
“What we’ve learned is those parents then struggle to be involved in their children’s school lives, because the school they’re being bused to is 40 minutes away,” Haynes said.
School Board member Carl Persis worried about the impact of rezoning students from Title 1 schools to schools without the federal resource education program.
“It’s all the same neighborhood, and so all of those students should have been receiving the same services,” Persis said. “But because of the ‘island effect,’ they got bused out.”
The rezoning process would include holding community meetings, and School Board member Anita Burnette said the district should make sure that people — including leaders of impacted municipalities — know the meetings are taking place.
“We need to make sure that we personally invite them,” Burnette said. “Send them a letter, send them an email and invite them to every one of the community events — not think that they see it on social media, not think that they hear about it. We need to send them a personal invite to every rezoning meeting that we have.”