When school starts back in August 2018, many elementary school children in South Walton will have a brand new school in which to attend classes.

Several dignitaries past and present from Walton County, as well as Bay, attended a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon on South Walton's eastern end for a new elementary school. The school has been in the works for more than two years.

"We have seen extraordinary growth in Walton County in recent years, and especially in South Walton," said School Superintendent Russell Hughes. "In several schools we are at and over capacity and we want to relieve pressure on them."

Hughes said the grades the new school will hold has not been finalized, but he is looking at it holding grades K-5.

The school's name has not yet been determined, but the naming will be a collaborative effort between Hughes, the school board and other community stakeholders, he said.

"It will be a name that is good for the community," he said.

The school will be built on M.C. Davis Boulevard, on 33.5 acres located 6 1/2 miles east of U. S. Highway 331S. While Davis did not donate the property, Hughes said he did allow the school district to purchase the land at a very reasonable cost before his death.

The new elementary school 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 project footprint will consist of 150,000 square feet and cost $200 per square foot to build.

The school will have 59 classrooms that can accommodate 1,012 students.

The construction comes as a relief to Bay Elementary Principal Meredith Spence, who has experienced the exponential growth. This year, her school had 450 new students.

"The biggest growth has been in first grade," she said.

Grace Scruggs attended the groundbreaking with her three daughters.

"I am very excited," she said, adding that her daughters who are in kindergarten and 2nd grade are in crowded conditions.

"This school is being built for growth," said Mark Gardner, facility director. "(Bay Elementary) has 15 portable classrooms this year. We are trying to keep up. This will be the biggest new school built in Walton County."

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