SANTA ROSA BEACH — Many elementary school students in South Walton will have a new place to learn next year.

Dune Lakes Elementary will be the first elementary school built in South Walton County in more than 20 years. The project has been in the works for more than three years.

“We have grown greatly, especially in the south end,” Schools Superintendent Russell Hughes told the Daily News last year. “We are over capacity in all of the south-end schools. It’s a great need for our students and families.”

There were 8,822 public school students in Walton County in 2016-17. So far this year there are more than 9,100 students, and that number is expected to grow.

Last year, Bay Elementary — one of the two elementary schools in the south end of the county — had 15 portable classrooms. Officials say the addition of a third school will help ease the overcrowding.

Dune Lakes Elementary is being built by Childers Construction Co. on 33.5 acres off U.S. Highway 98, 6.5 miles east of U. S. Highway 331. It will be part of an overall complex that will eventually include a community sports park to the north and a mixed-use housing and commercial development to the west.

The $35 million project will consist of 150,000 square feet with 59 classrooms that can accommodate 1,012 students. The school will hold traditional elementary grades K-5.

The School District finalized the school's name last spring, according to Hughes. Officials allowed third- through fifth-graders at Bay and Van R. Butler Elementary Schools to submit names that the School Board later voted on.

“We really wanted the community and students involved,” Hughes said. “Given the very unique compilation of dune lakes we have, they thought it would be a great time to capitalize on that geographical phenomenon.”

DAG Architects incorporated a modern media center, state-of-the-art computer labs, courtyards for outdoor learning, wetland nature walks, community gardens and nature-themed classrooms as just a few of the progressive features for the school.

Each classroom will have a unisex restroom, which should reduce the need for students to be unsupervised in hallways or restrooms, and cut the potential for bullying.

Signs of progress have become evident the past month, according to School District Facilities Director Mark Gardner. Crews are almost done installing roof panels, half of the courtyards have been bricked and interior walls are being installed.

Work on exterior features such as signage and landscaping began last week.

“We are really excited about this because it complements our ‘learn anywhere, anytime’ philosophy about this project and this school,” Gardner told the School Board on Tuesday. “We’re going to be excited to show it to you when we put it together.”