The district is looking to expand Venice High School as the school's enrollment numbers begin to reach its cap. They will host a series of meetings for the public next week.

The Sarasota County School District is looking to expand the campus of Venice High School as the school nears its maximum student enrollment.

The district will hold a series of public meetings next week to discuss the potential expansion. Last year, the school enrolled 2,165 students, according to the Florida Department of Education, which put it over capacity by about 70 students. The school's permanent capacity is about 2,100 students, according to the district's capital improvement plan. Within five years the projected enrollment will be about 2,200.

The seven public meetings offered in the next week and Dec. 5 will discuss the current enrollment numbers at Venice High and new residences in the area that will affect the local population. The school district will use the meetings as a chance to hear from the community and consider the best option for the high school.

The district has looked at building a new student wing on the campus that will accommodate 400 additional students in the school's total capacity. The plan puts the cost of the wing at $10 million and predicts that it would be funded and likely built in about three years, between 2021 and 2023.

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School Board members discussed the topic of Venice High's size in a School Board workshop in August. Superintendent Todd Bowden noted that expanding Venice High would temporarily solve the issue, but the school district would likely have to consider building a new high school in the area in the future.

"Building a 400-station wing at Venice permanently moves capacity of that school to 2,500 students," Bowden said. "...Building a classroom wing is not a permanent solution. It delays the need for a high school but doesn't completely alleviate the need."

Most of the School Board members were supportive of looking at building a new school at the August workshop but noted that the process for getting new school construction approved by the state can be complicated and lengthy. The district is also planning to build a new elementary school near Ashton Elementary, which was projected to be over capacity by about 350 students this year.

When schools are over capacity, often the district tries to encourage parents to enroll their students in nearby schools that do not have as many students. School Board Member Eric Robinson suggested doing just that with North Port High School.

"We could adopt that type of plan at North Port High and try to attract people to want to go there," Robinson said. "...We've got to be cognizant that the day we cut the ribbon on that building, we're going to be overcrowded again."

Venice High School has received an A grade from the Florida Department of Education since 2014, while North Port High has received a B.