Haines City High School reaches full capacity, no longer enrolling new students

Some Polk County families who thought they would be sending their kids to Haines City High School found out they'll have to find a different school, because Haines City is no longer enrolling new students.

The district recently sent a letter to parents notifying them the school is at capacity and can't accept any new students for the upcoming school year, which begins August 10.

"If kids were still able to enroll, you're going to see skyrocketing class sizes," said Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk Education Association. "If we have overcrowding in schools, safety becomes an issue, right? The student experience becomes an issue because if you have 50 kids in an algebra class, as an algebra teacher, that's almost impossible to meet the needs of every student in that class because essentially you're doing crowd control."

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According to the letter, students who are new to the area can instead attend Ridge Community High School, which is about six miles away and transportation will be provided. Parents can also request a transfer to a different public school, but those families would have to find their own transportation.

Yocum told FOX 13 News capping enrollment at Haines City was unfortunate, but necessary.

"It probably should have been done in years past, because once you get overcapacity like that, you have overcrowded classrooms, you have overworked teachers, you have students who are not getting their needs met," she said.

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Yocum said Haines City High is currently the only school turning away students, but she believes, with about 50,000 new students expected to move to Polk County in the next decade, others may have to follow suit.

"We can't build them fast enough. And so that's just becoming this is going to be our new norm, I think, until we get more schools built," Yocum said.

Some Haines City families are worried the situation will be even worse when their kids get to high school.

"It's something that's always on the back of my mind," said Eddie Bustamante, who has two younger children. "I think it's something that needs to be addressed and something they need to take seriously because education is important, especially having two little ones myself. That's something that I think about."