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New Escambia Middle School On Drawing Board

Escambia County School District

  When almost 70% of voters approved renewal of the half-cent sales tax for the Escambia County School District last week, they also opened the door to construction of a new middle school in a growing part of the county.

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says they’re looking around for land in the northwest Pensacola area for the new school, which would serve about 1,100 students. He says the location reflects the current migration of people to the middle of the county, around the Nine Mile Road corridor.

“As Nine Mile cuts across Escambia County, from the University (of West Florida) on one end to Beulah and Navy Federal (Credit Union) on the other,” said Thomas. “That is the vicinity, give or take, where everybody seems to be moving.”

A new middle school would cost between $50 million and $60 million. The half-cent sales tax – which is now good to go for another 13 years -- generates about $20 million annually. Work is underway by the District for a bond issue to cover the difference.

“What we would love to see happen is to find a large enough plot of land that would allow us to build both the elementary and middle school in the same plot of land,” said Thomas. “We want to find a piece of property that’s pretty much ready to build on. We don’t want to have to invest a lot of money or time with the Army Corps of Engineers trying to solve environmental or water issues.”

Environmental issues could force the district to go to “Plan-B” – finding one site for the middle school, and a separate but close-by plot for the elementary. Thomas says the middle school is their top priority, because of the many factors that hinge on it being occupied in order to carry through with re-zoning the other middle schools.

“I think the earliest that could happen is the ’17-’18 school year, if everything went perfect,” Thomas said. “There’s a possibility that that could be the ’18-’19 school year, depending on the timing of when we can make a land deal; how our permitting goes, and we don’t run into any weather or other problems.”

Once the school is built, the re-zoning will have the greatest effect on Woodham and Ransom Middle Schools, which serve students living in the midsection of Escambia County. Part of the plan is to reduce some of the overcrowding at Ransom, which has about 1,400 students and 11 portable classrooms.

“We will relocate West Florida High School back to the current Woodham campus,” said Thomas. “Brown Barge Middle School would move to where West Florida’s currently located. Brown Barge is about half the size of West Florida. The extra space at the current West Florida site would be consumed by George Stone Technical.”

Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says the new middle school and re-zoning will be a “win-win” for several different groups of students and staff. But he adds that it all depends on getting the new middle school up and running first.