This week, members of the Escambia County School District and local community marked the groundbreaking of Escambia County’s newest school.
On a nearly 50-acre site adjacent to Ransom Middle School in northwest Pensacola, Kingsfield Elementary School will help meet the needs of the rapid suburban growth in the Pensacola area.
The $25 million school is anticipated to be open for students in the fall of 2018. Once completed, it will be the second new school built by the district in the sprawling suburban communities of Beulah and Cantonment.
Kingsfield Elementary is being built at 900 West Kingsfield Road while the nearly $50 million Northwest Middle School broke ground at 6001 West Nine Mile Road late last year. Both schools are expected to be completed in 2018 and will help ease the burden on older schools in northwest Pensacola, where school overcrowding has become a great concern to the growing metropolitan area of nearly half a million residents.
“By building these new schools, we’re going to get ahead of the problem of severe overcrowding,” said Escambia County superintendent of schools Malcolm Thomas. “We’re going to have some cushion for growth for the next few years.”
Funded by Local Option Sales Tax dollars that Escambia County voters renewed in 2014, Fort Walton Beach-based Lord & Son Construction was chosen as general contractor for the school, which was designed by Pensacola-base Bullock Tice Associates. The 135,000 square foot school will serve 800 students.
“If it [the sales tax] had not been renewed I couldn’t have done this,” Thomas said, referring to building the new schools. “I had to have assurances for the future. We’re not going to put ourselves into debt for the general fund to pay for the schools — we’ve never done that. We’ve always paid cash. I don’t want to cripple our future.”
Serving more than 40,000 students, the Escambia County School District is the largest west of Jacksonville and district officials only expect for that number to steadily rise.
“Our objective is to give relief to the surrounding communities and help the growth that is coming to the area,” said Thomas. “Most of that growth is being spurred by Navy Federal. There are housing developments going up in the area and more planned developments in next few years.”
The school was planned in response to population growth in the area, much of it spurred by the growth of Navy Federal Credit Union, which has grown to become the world’s largest credit union. The company is spending nearly $1 billion on a two-phase expansion project in Pensacola to accommodate its growing workforce. By 2020, it expects to employ 10,000 people in Pensacola.
Thomas said with the new elementary and middle schools, the needs of the district will be met through at least the next five years. With the continued growth of companies like Navy Federal, he said he wouldn’t be surprised for the district to start working on plans for a new high school, which could cost upwards of $75 million.
“We don’t anticipate that [building a new high school] in the near future,” said Thomas. “But what we’d like to see down the road is for the county to set aside some acreage next to Navy Federal for a new elementary, and potentially a new high school for 15 to 20 years down the road.”