HAINES CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — In an area attracting residents at an explosive rate, the newest students are being turned away from their local high school.
“It’s pretty surprising to be honest. It’s a school. It shouldn’t be full for kids that want to learn and everything,” said Colin Swinburne, who graduated a few years ago from Polk County Public Schools.
Swinburne is watching as the demographics change in the northeast corner of Polk County.
“Developments are going in. They’re knocking down these groves and everything. It’s pretty crazy. You go a mile or two down the road and you see all these dirt piles from them putting in developments and everything,” he said.
It’s causing the schools to fill up fast.
According to the school district, 100 more students will be attending Haines City High School this year and that is with an enrollment cap in place.
“In an effort to prevent safety and overcrowding issues, we are capping enrollment at HCHS and redirecting new enrollees to Ridge Community High (less than six miles away). This will only impact new students who have moved to the area since the end of the 2021-22 school year,” a school district spokesperson wrote in a statement.
Davenport High School provided enrollment relief to Ridge Community High School when it opened in August 2021.
Still, Haines City High School has 26 portable classrooms and Ridge Community has 17, according to a school official.
“We continue to face the growth, the struggle with growth across our school district,” said superintendent Frederick Heid during a work session this week. “We have high schools across the region that are reaching capacity.”
Heid said there were 110,000 students enrolled in Polk County Public Schools last year.
This year, there are estimated to be 117,000 students.
“The utilization of our high schools is incredibly high,” Heid said. “The addition of a high school in the Poinciana area would not only allow us to recover students who are leaving and going to Osceola County because it’s closer to them, and they’re allowed to do that under Florida statute, but it would also us to reconfigure and rezone the entire northeast area.”
School board members were presented with a plan to purchase 100-acres of land at the intersection of Marigold Avenue and Lake Hatchinenha Road in the Poinciana area for $12 million.
“It will provide enrollment relief to students in Haines City. So these students will be able to come to Poinciana instead of going up to Haines City,” said Angela Usher, assistant superintendent.
School board member Lori Cunningham is already looking ahead to where the next high school will need to be built north of Poinciana, adding the district is “constantly behind the 8-ball,” due to growth.
“Our communities, our cities and our county are very developer friendly and continue to approve these subdivisions without knowing the ramifications of putting kids in schools,” she said.