SANTA ROSA BEACH — Dune Lakes Elementary School is on track to open in August, according to Walton County School District representatives.
The new elementary school, which will hold about 1,000 students, will help with current overcrowding issues at Bay Elementary and Van R. Butler School in Walton County.
Walton County Superintendent Russell Hughes said the school will house students from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“We have voted to put our fifth graders back into a regular elementary school setting in Dune Lakes and Van R. Butler,” Hughes said, noting that fifth graders have been attending Emerald Coast Middle School for the past few years.
Hughes added that enrollment has not yet begun for the new school, but he estimates Dune Lakes will be a popular choice among residents of south Walton.
“We have done a non-committed survey so we have some idea of those parents who are interested in enrolling their students here,” he said. “We estimate through surveys that we will start out at about 500 (students) at Dune Lakes.”
As for staffing the new school, Hughes said that a majority of the teachers will be coming from Bay Elementary School, as that property will be transitioning into a pre-kindergarten center in the fall.
“It’s a process through our human resources department and union collective bargain agreement,” he said. “The teachers are expected to come over here from Bay Elementary School, and those who are teachers at Emerald Coast Middle School will also be given a choice to move to Dune Lakes, since those units are moving and going back into the elementary setting.”
In terms of construction, Mark Gardner, director of facilities for Walton County School District, said the school’s design is already making an impact.
DAG Architect and site construction manager, Childers Construction Company Inc., won a statewide award for from the Florida Education Facilities Planning Association for the school’s design.
“They received first place for best elementary school design, including safety and security, sustainability, energy efficiency, technology innovation,” Gardner said. “Additionally, we have saved over $600,000 in sales tax savings through the district purchasing materials because they are tax free for us.”
The timeline for the school will pan out over the next few months, and Gardner said he is confidant the Dune Lakes Elementary will be operational in time for school to be in session for the 2019-2020 school year.
“We have all of our built-in case work (cabinetry) done and flooring is going down now,” Gardner said. “Our substantial completion date is the end of May. The first furniture install date is scheduled for June 4th with a plan to occupy the building after July 4. We then plan to open the school the second week of August for the first day of classes.”
Dune Lakes Elementary is built on 33.5 acres off U.S. Highway 98 about 6.5 miles east of U.S. Highway 331. The school will be the first elementary school built in South Walton County in more than 20 years.