If you didn’t attend the town hall meeting hosted by Superintendent Hughes at Freeport High School then you missed out on some good information.
First I want to thank Superintendent Hughes for taking the time to bring his team out and address the public and answer questions. I would also like to congratulate Superintendent Hughes for helping Walton County Schools rank #7 in the state! That’s not a small accomplishment. Also in attendance was Mayor Barley, Councilman McCormick, Councilman Farris, Principals from Freeport Elementary School, Freeport Middle School and Freeport High School as well as approx 40-50 members of the public.
The beginning of the town hall was spent setting the stage. Lots of discussion of the explosive growth in Freeport. Latilda Hughes-Neel the Freeport City Planner and Superintendent Hughes revealed some different numbers when it came to the population of the City of Freeport but it’s safe to say that we are currently at approximately 13,000+ residents in and around Freeport.
One of the bigger issues we are experiencing right now is overcrowding in our elementary school. Currently FES has 849 students enrolled, 107% capacity! Remember this is with 5th grade being at FMS. The above picture illustrates a plan to improve FES to accommodate 1200 students.
This plan has not been given a green light but I think we can all agree that this needs to happen.
Next up is the age and condition of FMS. This building is the oldest of the 3 Freeport schools. The majority of FMS was built in the 1940s with the most recent remodel happening in 1991. There was mention of safety concerns with the open campus and drainage issues with heavy rain. The open campus issue is going to see a temporary fix with a perimeter fence being delivered today that will be installed soon.
The above pic shows the location of the 30 acres lot which was donated to the County by Jay Odom and below is a pic of the slide which explains a little about the requirements for that parcel of land.
While the County can definitely seek out other parcels of land in order to build the new school, this 30 acres was donated (no tax dollars used to purchase), all of the surveys have been completed and the land is ready to build on. Below is an idea of what the school MAY look like. This is not an official rendering but an idea of what the lot can accommodate.
You will notice this parcel of land is located next to the Freeport Sports Complex and just North of the new Lattitude Apartments that are currently being constructed. The main access would be along county road 83A East using the east entrance to Hammock Bay.
One of the points made was that with such a dense population of children living in Hammock Bay this would alleviate a lot of the traffic currently on 331 because the close proximity would allow many of these children to walk or ride their bikes to school.
The FES addition would take approximately 2 years to complete. The new school if built on Hammock Bay land would take approximately 3 years to complete and if the county chooses to seek another parcel of land it would add approximately 12 more months and of course cost taxpayers money to purchase the land and prep for construction.
As a follow up to this town hall there is a workshop scheduled for October 15th at South Walton High School at 3:45 pm
The feeling of the townhall seemed to lean towards building a middle school 6-8grades on the Hammock Bay site and expanding the Elementary School at its current location to accommodate growth and bringing back 5th grade to the Elementary School. Although there was no timeline for the beginning of either project.
As new information is available we will be sure to share it with you.