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Marion County to open three new public schools to alleviate overcrowding

North Marion High School students make their way to the buses to go home. (Adrian Carmona/WUFT)
North Marion High School students make their way to the buses to go home. (Adrian Carmona/WUFT)

The city of Ocala is experiencing long-term population growth and the Marion County Public School District is working to match the surge.

In order to help with the increasing student growth, MCPS is building three new schools in southwest Marion County. Two of them will be elementary schools, and one will be a high school.

Marion County Public Schools officially broke ground for the two elementary schools in February. The elementary schools will each hold 860 students and contain 43 classrooms, according to chairwoman Sarah James.

At approximately 115,000 square-feet each, the schools will be a two-story construction with one building, according to the school board website. The total budget for the elementary schools is $47 million each.

Additionally, James said that no names have been decided for any of the schools, but future committee meetings will be held to decide the names.

In a recent Facebook post, Marion County Public Schools revealed that one school will be located at 14320 SW 70th Ave. Road, and the other will be located at 7200 SW 49th Ave. Road. No address has been revealed for the high school.

“We are trying to alleviate the overcrowding in our schools,” said Mark Avery, president of the Marion Education Association, which is an organization made up of education professionals that work to attain high levels of achievement in the classroom.

In the 2023-2024 school year, Marion County Public Schools enrolled 45,651 students, the most in its 155-year history, according to the school board website.

In 10 years, district enrollment has grown by 9%, said Kevin Christian, director of public relations. In 2013, the student population was at 41,950 students.

The growth of the school district is a result of the fast growth of Marion County. It is currently one of the fastest growing counties in Florida.

According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Unified School District, students perform worse in overcrowded schools. Additionally, it showed that students who moved to schools with fewer students had achievement gains equivalent to attending school for more than two additional months.

Students aren’t the only ones impacted by overcrowding. “Teaching is hard regardless,” Christian said, “and it doesn’t get easier with a surplus of students.”

Since 2010, Florida has limited class sizes to 22 students in grades 4 through 8 and 25 students in grades 9 through 12. Christian said that because of these mandates, new classes have to be created.

“We then need more computers and more textbooks,” he said, “You can see the domino effect.” Christian mentioned even bus routes can be delayed due to overcrowding.

With the opening of three new schools, neighborhoods will be rezoned, especially in the southwest region to avoid students having to cross the county daily. “You wouldn’t want your kid to live on one side of the county and have to go to the other side for school,” Christian said.

Buses wait for students outside North Marion High School. (Adrian Carmona/WUFT)
Buses wait for students outside North Marion High School. (Adrian Carmona/WUFT)

In addition to the rezoning of students to the new schools, teachers and faculty will be rezoned. “It won’t be a random process,” Avery said, “We plan to have some volunteers.”

Christian said there is a voluntary transfer period for teachers each year to decide who will move. The process of hiring new teachers will also be utilized, he said. “We think part of it is that the teachers will follow the students,” Avery said.

With the construction of the new schools, funding has remained the biggest obstacle. As of now, Christian says the plan for funding includes borrowing money, but will also need to come from impact fees and sales taxes.

Christian anticipates the two elementary schools to open in August of 2025, and the high school to open August 2027. The last new school to open in Marion County was in 2013.

Adrian is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing