New elementary school rendering

This rendering shows the shared design for both of Polk County Public Schools new elementary facilities to be built in Mulberry and Davenport. Groundbreaking is expected on both schools this summer.

While dozens of Polk County schools have been sitting empty due to the pandemic, school officials haven't been sitting by idly. Polk County Public Schools officials have been busy laying the groundwork for the $70 million construction of two new elementary schools, one in Davenport and the other in Mulberry.

“We are excited to break ground this summer on two new state-of-the-art elementary schools,” said Angela Usher, the PCPS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations.

The Mulberry school, to be constructed on a 21-acre Bailey Road campus, has been in the works for years, adds schools spokesman Jason Geary, and the new Davenport school — to be built in the Bella Citta area — was added to the district's to-do list in 2017. The Davenport school will sit on a 38-acre site.

“The (Davenport) school was added to the district's capital improvement plan in 2017 because of the significant growth occurring in the northeast part of the county,” Usher said. “The new campuses will help alleviate the need to transport children to schools farther away or put students in existing schools where capacity is close to its maximum.”

Both the new schools will be two floors and house nearly 1,000 students each. They will have a modified U-shape that will include classrooms, a media center, cafeteria and administrative offices.

While capital improvement funds from the state have been a long-standing issue with the school system, these two projects don't fall under that category. According to Geary, the Mulberry school will be built using the district's half-cent county-wide sales tax revenues and the Davenport school will be paid for with impact fees. Impact fees are levied on new development to offset the cost of schools, additional government services and transportation improvements.

The new Davenport school follows recent construction of the Citrus Ridge Academy in 2016 in the Four Corners area, and a $20 renovation of the 1927 Davenport Elementary School.

Neither new school has yet been named, according to Geary.