There are the big numbers: $18 million for an expansion of Matanzas High School. $70 million for a new middle school. $77 million for a new high school, for a total of $165 million.
That’s what the Flagler County school district is tentatively projecting to spend over the next five years on its bigger capital projects, with the high school cost stretching past that window and the latter part of the decade, toward a total of $90 million.
Much of that, especially the starting costs of the new middle school, kicking in with the 2023-24 school year, is dependent on what next October’s student enrollment figures will look like, David Freeman, the district’s chief of operations, says.
For nearly a decade and a half, the district’s enrollment has stagnated around 13,000 students. It’s been projecting a sharp increase: 20 percent in elementary schools from now to 2030, 29 percent in middle schools, and 30 percent in high schools, according to the district’s latest projections.
“If our numbers aren’t where we anticipate them to be, then that project could slip” further off into the decade, or even be accelerated, Freeman said of the planned middle school. “It all depends on what that data looks like in October.”
Then there’s a smaller, more certain number: $6.64 million. That’s the immediate capital cost for the projects slated for the coming year. “The 2022-23 projects are really the projects that we are focused on. Those are the projects we’re committed on doing this next fiscal year,” Freeman said. Those include $3.2 million of the $18 million addition at Matanzas, which will expand that school to accommodate an additional 366 students by 2024-25.
Flagler County School Board members got their first look at the expansion’s design at a workshop last month, as presented by Schenkel Shultz Architecture. The project is in the middle of the design phase, with bidding and permitting set for March and construction starting soon after that. Construction is set to be completed by June 2024. The new 20,000 square foot building will be attached to Building 5, with an expansion of the dining room into the existing media center, which will move to the second floor of the new addition.
“It’s going to be much more of a collaborative, 21st Century Media Center,” Patrick Rauch, the lead architect on the project, said. “It’s a great size, lot of transparency, nice flexible furniture, all of the things that you’d expect in a new modern media center space, and also is going to have what we call an art lab.”
“So the goal was to try and appreciate the legacy the style,” the architect said, “but also give its own a little bit unique identity also.”
The design moves somewhat away from that institutional, hermetic school architecture of the late 20th and early 21st century to fewer bricked up walls, bigger windows, even bay windows on the second floor and none of those jalousie-window shutters that create the impression of prison bars, instead lending the building an airier feel between interiors and exteriors. “Trying to capture a lot of nice views, looking onto the courtyard area, and also kind of creating a lot of transparency,” Rauch said, “and ultimately we’re also trying to do especially in this part of the campus, is create more of a collegiate kind of feel for the campus also, so it feels like they’re going into higher education.”
It is the irony of post-Sandy Hook and Parkland-massacre architecture: as school campuses have been transformed into single-point-of-entry fortresses with “hardened,” surveilled and presumably impenetrable perimeters, buildings themselves are taking on less forbidding looks as if to counteract the ramparts.
It started with the new Sandy Hook. “The new school,” Architect magazine wrote when that new campus opened in 2016, “is unconventional in appearance. Its façade, a long, concave, curving wall—an “embrace” according to the architects—made of vertical wooden planks with a gently undulating roofline, has a look that is decidedly anti-institutional.” Inside, ceilings rose high, entire walls were mosaics of windows, stairwells, balconies and lounging areas filled spaces. Square was out, amplitude was in.
In that sense the new addition at Matanzas, which tries to connect the campus’s existing style with the new, with its glassed-in stairwells and glass-enclosed hallway along one facade, may be a preview of the sort of new schools that will be built in the county later this decade.
“Those are the projects that we are committed to,” Freeman said, referring to the coming year’s capital plans, including the Matanzas addition. “The rest of the projects on the five-year plan are just that: it’s a plan. But we have tried to identify everything that we know that potentially could fail or we need to make sure that it gets replaced before it’s opened.”
Along those lines, he outlined the The $330,000 chiller-replacement project for Bunnell Elementary, replacing a 17-year-old system there, and contending with 11-month lead times in ordering equipment. The Belle Terre Elementary lobby reconstruction, similar to lobby redesigns across the district’s schools, will put in place safety measures and uniform points of entry (a project budgeted at $150,000 but expected to cost less than that). It’ll be the last such redesign, with Wadsworth Elementary’s getting completed now. Grant money is defraying $85,000 of that cost.
The list includes $100,000 for the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club’s parking lot, a tangle of tree roots and buckled asphalt that may see something less than a total replacement (that would have cost $350,000). The district is considering shearing off the roots and “resurfacing the entire lot and restriping” for $100,000, Freeman said.
Flagler Palm Coast High School needs a new roof for Building 7, a nearly $1 million cost, and its parking lot–intolerable and seemingly recently redesigned as it is–is in line for yet another resurfacing for $750,000. The school’s stadium will see repairs of $200,000, also not so long after a round of repairs recently: “We did stadium repairs several years ago, three years ago,” Freeman said. “This is a concrete stadium and we continuing to have deterioration with the stadium.”
Freeman said the district may have to think about demolishing Sal Campanella Stadium eventually. “We did an analysis of–does it make sense to continue to do these repairs at that amount every two years or every three years, or should we look at potentially replacing that stadium,” he said. “So we did some analysis and it makes more sense to put that in your five year plan and build an aluminum stadium much like what Matanzas has, than to keep putting money in to the stadium as it is.” The cost would be $2.5 million, including the demolition of the current stadium, and including having the same number of seats in the newer stadium.
“I don’t even want to think about that,” Board member Colleen Conklin said, recalling how the stadium has shadowed her decades in the county and probably echoing a stadium-full of voices in the community.
FPC is also set to get a covered eating area between Buildings 1 and 7, for $200,000.
At Matanzas High School, the big-ticket item aside from the addition is new lights for the practice fields ($500,000). Rymfire Elementary will get an extensive painting and weatherproofing make-over, for $250,000. Board member Cheryl massaro is concerned that the Flagler County Youth center on FPC’s campus has yet to be hardened for security the same way that schools have been. The district is slating all schools as a priority, however.
MHS Expansion Presentation (1)