Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the district rezoning schools?
The last time Alachua County Public Schools rezoned the entire district was 1983. Only limited rezoning has been done since then. Meanwhile, there have been many changes in Alachua County in the last forty years that have dramatically affected school populations, including but not limited to population growth, new development, migration within the county, and school choice options (magnets, charters, vouchers, etc.).
As a result, we now have schools that are significantly overcrowded and others that are significantly under-enrolled. Twenty of our 36 traditional schools are overcrowded, meaning they are at 90% or more of their permanent capacity. That includes 14 of our 22 elementary schools. The situation is only going to get worse with the new housing developments either planned or under construction over the next three years.
To ensure that we are focusing our resources on teaching and learning, we need to use our facilities and our operating funds as efficiently as possible. Matching enrollment to a school’s capacity has a number of benefits. It can reduce the number of bus routes (which can help us cut down on late buses) and shorten bus rides. It reduces the strain on core facilities, like cafeterias and computer labs. It reduces the need for portables. It promotes safety and cuts down on crowding and traffic in and around schools. These are just a few examples. More information is provided in this document and at our rezoning website at www.sbac.edu/rezoning.
Ultimately our goal is to ensure we are providing all students with a high-quality learning experience.
Why doesn’t the district build more schools or new buildings in high-growth areas?
There are a number of reasons that building our way out of this situation is not an effective solution.
One reason is cost. Building more space is extremely expensive, and unfortunately the money the district can spend on new construction is limited.
Most of our facilities funding comes from what’s called the capital millage, money raised through local property taxes just for facilities. Over the last 10 to 15 years, the state has cut the capital millage available to Florida’s school districts, and more cuts are expected this year.
Florida has some strict rules about how districts can use capital millage to add more capacity. The state has to approve new construction, and it won’t approve a new school or building if there are seats available somewhere else in the district, no matter how far they are from the students.
The district also gets facilities funds from the Half-Cent for Schools sales tax, which was approved by voters in 2018 and runs through 2030. We have more flexibility with the Half-Cent revenues, but those dollars are also limited.
The district has added permanent capacity with money from the Half-Cent. The new Terwilliger Elementary School and the new classroom building at Oak View Middle were funded through the Half-Cent. But most of our facilities dollars (Half-Cent and capital millage) are desperately needed to renovate, repair, modernize and maintain existing schools, many of which are decades old and sadly in need of work.
Adding space to existing schools also puts a strain on ‘core facilities’ like cafeterias, media centers, computer labs and other areas that serve all students at a school. That’s why students at some of our schools have to eat lunch at 9:45 in the morning, or have more limited access to the media center or computer labs. Hallways are too crowded. Bus and parent drop-off/pick up areas are too small, there’s not enough parking, and traffic backs up around the school, which creates delays and other issues for students, families and staff.
Finally, many campuses don’t have the space or infrastructure (water, sewer, etc.) for more buildings.
Why not just add portables to overcrowded schools and move them as needed?
Portables pose many of the same problems as new buildings on campus.
They are very expensive. Currently the district has more than 360 portables, and 120 of them are leased. Our leased portables cost about $815,000 a year. Many of the portables we own are old, more expensive to operate/maintain and are at the end of their life expectancy. And moving any portable is pricey—about $20,000 per move.
Often portables take up space that is intended for playgrounds and physical education. In fact, some schools don’t have any space left for portables. Students are often not protected from bad weather when moving to and from portables.
Like new classroom buildings, portables put a strain on core facilities at a school—cafeterias, media centers, computer labs, recreational areas, etc.
For all the reasons listed above, the district is focusing on permanent capacity during the rezoning process rather than relying on portables to fix our issues.
Is the district considering revising its future facilities plans?
Yes, and revised attendance zones will be an important step in this process, especially as the district considers facilities improvements that will add capacity.
Why not just fix those schools that are overcrowded or under-enrolled, rather than rezoning district-wide?
Spot rezoning is possible in some limited situations, such as when some 65 students zoned to Idylwild Elementary were rezoned to Metcalfe Elementary beginning in the fall of 2022. This was a fairly simple move because the students lived closer to Metcalfe.
However, this is not a workable solution for the issues Alachua County Public Schools is facing throughout the district. Relieving the significant overcrowding and under-enrollment at so many of our schools requires a district-wide approach.
Are you considering future development as you redraw school zones?
Absolutely! We have been sharing maps and data showing not just the locations of active developments (those either under construction or expected to begin construction within three years), but how many students each is expected to generate and where those students are currently zoned.
Currently, the district projects that for every 100 single-family homes, there will be 12 elementary, 6 middle and 9 high school students needing space in a school. For multi-family homes, those numbers are 6 elementary, 3 middle and 3 high school students.
These figures are updated regularly. The district also gets development updates from local governments.
You can see the current development maps on our rezoning website at www.sbac.edu/rezoning.
Are the new maps we’re seeing already approved? When do they take effect?
No, they are proposed maps and are being made to reflect updated student enrollment figures. They won’t be approved by the School Board until December 5, after the public has a chance to weigh in. Community input sessions will be held throughout the district in October to gather input, and citizens can share their thoughts, ideas and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citizens also have the opportunity to offer input at two regular School Board meetings when rezoning will be on the agenda (October 17 and November 14), and even meetings when it is not on the agenda during the Citizen Input portions of the meetings.
For a full schedule of rezoning related meetings, including the community input sessions, visit www.sbac.edu/rezoning. Proposed maps and other information are also available on that website.
The new attendance zones are scheduled to take effect for the 2024-25 school year.
What factors will the district and School Board be considering as new lines are drawn?
In keeping with School Board Policy 5120--District School Zones, the factors that will be considered in redrawing attendance zones include:
- financial and administrative efficiency
- school capacity and grade level capacity
- convenience of access to schools
- safe and efficient student transportation and travel
- effective and appropriate instructional programs
- socio-economic diversity in school enrollments with consideration of the equitable impact on student
- enrollment at each school
- utilization of existing school facilities
These factors have not been placed in rank order in the School Board policy.
There are other issues that are also being considered during this process, such as new development, new state laws on vouchers, and other external factors that affect our enrollment and capacity at our schools.
Will my student be able to finish out their time in their current school?
Under the current School Board policy, students who will be in 5th, 8th or 12th grade for the 2024-25 school year will have the option to remain at their current school for that year. However, this does not apply to siblings in other grades.
Why are magnet programs being discussed as part of rezoning?
Currently there are more than 2400 students attending a magnet program (academic or career-technical) outside their school zone. That includes magnet programs at schools that are currently significantly overcrowded. Naturally they have to be considered during any discussion of student attendance and school capacity.
Magnets are just one of many factors the district and School Board will be considering. Board members have talked about ways to expand the opportunities provided by magnet programs to more students, such as through whole school magnets, duplicating programs in other schools, adding earlier grades to existing magnet programs, etc.