There was a blue and white cake, there were golden shovels, there were hard hats imprinted with the names of the principal, the superintendent, the elected officials from the school board, Palm Coast and the County Commission, there were student athletes and cheerleaders, and there was a groundbreaking on the 20,000 square foot addition to Matanzas High School this morning.
The $22.6 million project is the largest on a Flagler school campus since the renovation of Buddy Taylor Middle School and the construction of the Wadsworth-Buddy Taylor cafeteria almost a decade and a half ago (at a combined cost of $43 million.) The project will take two years to complete.
A district release misleadingly placed the cost of the project at $18 million. As a presentation to the school board outlined in May, however, the construction budget alone was $18.75 million. Including the design, a 10 percent contingency fee (in recent years, local government projects have usually used up contingency fees and more) and other costs, the total rises to $22.6 million. (See the costs outlined here.)
The new square footage will combine with renovations of 11,000 square feet within the existing footprint of the school–in Buildings 9 and 10–that will net new classrooms, a larger media center, expanded cafeteria space, and a new central energy plant. The plant and the new building should be completed by December 2024. The renovation phase would follow, and be completed substantially by May 2025. A new pre-engineered metal building will support the school’s physical education programs.
The expansion enables the district to delay building a new high school for a few years. Toward the end of the last school year, in May, Matanzas High School’s enrollment had reached 1,930, compared to Flagler Palm Coast High School’s 2,410 students. At Matanzas, the ninth-grade class was more than 100 students larger than the 11th grade class, and almost that much larger than the 12th grade class. Incoming classes from Matanzas’s feeder school–Indian Trails Middle–are in the 500-student range.
The district as a whole in May topped 13,600 students (including Imagine School at Town Center, the charter school), somewhat more–but not yet much more–than the district’s enrollment for the past decade and a half.
It is also still unclear to what extent Florida’s new law subsidizing private education with public dollars will further erode potential enrollment. The law grants up to $8,000 in taxpayer money per child to families what wish to send the child to private school, or to homeschool.
“This expansion is setting up Matanzas for future growth as we continue to see rooftops rise all around our campus,” Matanzas High School Principal Kristin Bozeman said. “We may have to deal with a few challenges with having a construction zone in the middle of your campus, but in the end, our students, faculty, and staff will have a campus design that will better fit our needs.”
The $1.4 million design of the addition (the building will be attached to Building 5), by Schenkel Shultz Architecture, also reflects an airier, less forbidding look that attempts to combine security with a sense of openness. HA Contracting Corp. of Miami-Dade is the contractor. (Saboungi Construction was the only other bidder, sending in a $14.7 million bid, compared to Ha Contracting‘s $18.75 million. The actual construction budget last November was $14.4 million).
The 2023-24 school year begins for teachers on Aug. 1, for students on Aug. 10. Classes at Matanzas will be conducted normally as work will be phased in as needed to minimize interruptions. Final completion is anticipated to be July 2025.
“This project has taken so much planning,” Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore said. “We’ve talked about this for so long that seeing the work begin is exciting. This brings life to the renderings we’ve looked at over the past year.”
School impact fee revenue is paying for the expansion. In the 2022-23 school year alone, the district collected $6.4 million in impact fees, the one-time fees levied on new construction to defray the impact of development.
“I am eager with anticipation to see the building of new facilities that meet the needs of a rapidly growing student population attending Matanzas High School,” Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin, who was among the ground-breakers, said. “The popularity of the school’s programs fueled by shifting population centers moving north and west make this new facility a smartly planned investment necessary to achieve excellent academic performance concurrent with future growth. One of the most important measures of a community’s value and success is exceptional performance by its school district.”
The ceremonial groundbreaking was held Monday morning on the school campus at 3535 Pirate Nation Way in Palm Coast.