POINCIANA – In the last decade, when the housing market was booming and Florida was one of the fastest growing states in the nation, it was a trend that lasted for years: new homes being built at a rapid pace, in communities like Poinciana, which used to have more citrus fields than housing developments.
Then it was commercial shopping plazas that couldn’t get built fast enough to meet the needs of all those new residents.
There was one other construction trend in the past decade: the building of new schools to meet the needs of all the students flocking into these communities.
Poinciana, which experienced a residential construction boom between 2004 and 2007, at the height of the real estate market, was a prime example of that trend. This community of 84,000 residents, which cuts across Polk and Osceola, once just had one high school, Poinciana High. By the time the decade closed, Poinciana had no fewer than three, with New Dimensions High and Liberty High being added.
Although residential development came to a halt when the housing market crashed in 2008, commercial development is now coming back to Poinciana, with construction underway on a new gas station off Pleasant Hill Road and a Wendy’s restaurant there.
And the schools are also starting to see some change as well. All three of Poinciana’s high schools are on the Osceola County side of Poinciana, which has about 51,000 residents, but the 31,000 residents on the Polk County side of the community can’t attend any of those schools because they don’t pay Osceola County property taxes to help pay for them. Instead, those students go to neighboring Haines City High School, and there’s a move underway to get the Polk County School Board to build a high school there – a project that community activists like Annette Brown Best think will become a reality if those Poinciana-Polk County residents speak up loudly enough to the School Board.
”I think we’ve gotten their attention,’’ Brown Best said.
In the meantime, one of those Osceola County high schools will soon be celebrating a major expansion, just in time for the fall semester that begins in August.
New Dimensions High School will host a ceremony on June 5 from 11-11:45 a.m., marking the opening of an 8,785 square foot, one story building that has six classrooms, one computer lab, and 150 student stations. The new building is another reminder of Poinciana’s rapid growth in the past decade, since the addition replaces existing modular units that students used to cram into.
”This will be a ribbon cutting for the new building,’’ said Wendy Farrell, president of the Poinciana Area Council, a group of business owners in the community who meet once a month and have been active in school and education issues. Farrell has been the driving force behind Career Days, which brings local business owners to the local schools to meet with students getting close to graduate, and she helped start an annual scholarship program for local seniors.
The construction work recently done at New Dimensions, a privately run public charter school, included 6,200 square feet of partial renovations to the existing administration and cafeteria building, and the renovations provided for larger office space, more storage rooms, handicapped accessible restrooms, a new science lab, and ancillary space.
It was badly needed at the crowded school, Farrell said.
”I can’t believe they’re already cutting the ribbon,’’ she said. ”It went up so fast. It’s awesome. This puts a whole new wing up. They used to have portables there, and now they have this brand new building. It’s great.”
Outside improvements included work on storm water utilities, sidewalks, and a new covered walkway leading into the school.
The school is at 4900 Old Pleasant Hill Road. There will be refreshments and a light lunch served in the school’s media center after the ceremony.
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