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Every year, the Citrus County School District’s planning and growth management department crunches the numbers to address school capacity issues and plan for potential new growth.

In January, district planning director Chuck Dixon completed the 2021 summary of school capacity.

According to the report, between December, 2020 and 2021, the district has seen a total increase of 96 students, including those enrolled in Citrus eSchool. However, during the same period, the district has seen a decrease of 315 students at their zoned brick and mortar schools.

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According to the report, the full-time alternative to brick and mortar school, Citrus eSchool, has relieved capacity issues and freed up space for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, 3,954 students (27.1 percent of the population) were enrolled in Citrus eSchool. Student enrollment in Citrus eSchool dropped to 2,820 (18.8 percent of the population) in December, 2020.

By December, 2021, only 411 students (less than 3 percent of the population) were enrolled in Citrus eSchool. Based on these numbers, the district is seeing a trend of students moving back to brick and mortar learning.

In addition, the report states homeschool enrollment has increased by 375 students during the same period, which is atypical. This indicates overall student growth in the district.

Between the 411 students in Citrus eSchool and 375 students in homeschool, there is the potential for up to 786 students to return to their zoned brick and mortar schools during the 2022-23 school year.

In addition, the district is seeing an uptick in residential development activity, according to the report. This activity was unexpected, based on historical patterns, but the district believes the Suncoast Parkway expansion may accelerate this further.

Despite the potential increase in students, the district has a five-year work plan in place to accommodate growth.

For example, during the 2022-23 school year, the district has plans to expand Floral City Elementary School. Expansion will begin with the kitchen and cafeteria, and new classroom wings will follow depending on demand.

If growth accelerates in the central Pine Ridge area, the district could utilize an elementary school site, which was purchased by the school board in 2011. Although enrollment in the area has remained steady in the past few years, the district projects continued growth due to the increased availability of affordable housing.

Among other projects, Rock Crusher Elementary School expansion options are also being considered.

In addition, beginning in the 2017-18 school year, the school board approved the Controlled Open Enrollment Plan, which has been approved every year since. According to the report, the plan enables the district to consider student assignment to out-of-zone schools, per parent request.

Therefore, students can be placed in out-of-zone school that have not yet reached capacity, which helps the district evenly distribute students. For more information on enrollment, visit tinyurl.com/3vzh7e8b.

Hannah Sachewicz can be reached at hannah.sachewicz@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2929.