Simplified: Tea is growing fast. Recent projections from the school district show both middle and high schools will be over capacity within five years, and school officials say the time to act is now.

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The Tea Area School District is relatively young compared to the rest of the state. It's only been around since 2003 when it broke off from the Lennox School District.

But since then, it has done almost nothing but grow.

Tea started with just shy of 700 students and as of last fall has grown to more than 2,060.

In another five years, that number is projected to grow by another nearly 950 students, according to data from school officials.

The trick, Superintendent Jennifer Nebelsick Lowery said, is balancing the need for growth with desires of the community and the burden on taxpayers.

And it all has to be done while thinking long-term.

"This can't be a solution for three years or five years," Lowery said. "This has to be a longitudinal solution."

Why it matters

  • Residential developments are booming in Tea, bringing more people to the area. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of residential building permits increased 40 percent.
  • Building schools takes time, as does the process to fund them. Officials have to start planning now before buildings fill up starting with (likely) the middle and high schools.
  • Schools cost money. That means taxpayers are likely to see votes on bonds starting as early as next spring. The goal is to spread it out as much as possible, School Board President Kristen Daggett said, but the need for more space is inevitable.
"I do know that schools impact taxes, but I also know that I have to have a building for a student, and I have to have a quality education," Daggett said. "It makes society better."

What changes are coming?

It's too soon to say for sure.

District officials presented a plan to the school board earlier this month laying out the following:

  • A $28 million addition to the high school that would add more than 20 classrooms, another commons area, a fine arts wing, an auxiliary gym and some renovations. If all went to plan, it'd open Fall 2024.
  • A $15.6 million new elementary school modeled after the existing Venture Elementary with room for 670 students.
  • A plan to rearrange grades so elementary schools are Junior Kindergarten through 4th grade. Then Legacy Elementary would be repurposed into an intermediate school for 5th and 6th graders, and grades 7-8 would remain in the existing middle school building.

School board members did not approve this plan, but instead asked to see other options, including what building a second middle school would look like.

What happens next?

District officials will keep looking at other possible options, including looking at building a new middle school instead of rearranging grade levels.

Lowery said community meetings will be scheduled for this fall, and from there it'll be a matter of deciding on a final plan and approving a bond to fund it.