Manatee plans to close some schools

Posted at 5:43 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 17:43:21-05
The Manatee County School district is working to make big changes that could potentially close some neighborhood schools and lead to the construction of new ones.
District leaders are working on a new master plan that would help identify how to use existing schools, attract kids from overcrowded schools to under-capacity schools and locate where new schools should be built in the near future.
Some Manatee schools are severely under capacity, while others are currently overcrowded and growing. The goal is to plan for future growth, while making sure facilities are up-to-date and safe, all on a limited budget.
Part of the plan involves closing neighborhood school Wakeland Elementary and possibly merge it with the nearby Johnson Middle School to form a K-8. District leaders said Wakeland's foundation is sinking and cannot be repaired. They believe the best long-term solution is sending Wakeland kids to Johnson.
Susie Copeland considers Wakeland Elementary her neighborhood school.
"My son did attend this school," Copeland said.  "He was able to walk."
She is concerned about closing its doors.
"If it's structurally bad, let's do something about it," Copeland said. "I just think the district has been negligent in taking care of their property."
But district leaders insist this is the safest move for students while being cost-effective.
"Our students deserve to be in facilities that we can stand behind and say, for the next 50 years, we believe it will be there and it will be a quality facility," said Dr. Diana Greene, Manatee Schools superintendent.
The district is also aiming to close Orange Ridge Elementary as soon as next school year, transferring kids to the newer G.D. Rogers Garden School.
"The nicer your facility is, you know, the better you feel about your school," Greene said.
But some parents still have questions.
"Can it actually be fixed, and what is the actual cost to it?" asked Jennifer Kruse, a Wakeland parent.
They don't want to close older schools unless absolutely necessary.
"We will lose families because they are going to be scared, because it's just being moved into something," Kruse said.
This comes as the district is also hoping to build some new schools, including a new high school that would ease severe overcrowding in the Lakewood Ranch area.
The board says all of these changes are not final yet. They say that they plan on doing more community outreach and will take more steps at their board meeting on March 8.