JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The next school year is months away but on Saturday thousands of Jacksonville parents and students started exploring their options.
They attended the Duval County School Choice Expo, which showcased every school in the district, and featured first hand experiences from teachers, administrators and the students themselves.
"I've got my daughter here because I'm trying to get her in a nice high school," parent Michael Brown told Channel 4 at the expo.
That's why he, his wife children came out to the 2014 Duval County School Choice Expo.
His daughter plays soccer and he's hoping to find a school to match her interests athletically and academically.
"I'm a parent. I just want the best for my kids," Brown said. "And I didn't really have that opportunity when I was coming up as a child and I want to see my kids proceed and do for their kids."
He and thousands of other parents packed the Prime Osborn Center, not only learning about each school, but the districts magnet programs, career academies, charter schools and high school acceleration programs.
"It's been very helpful because the schools that she was interested in, I didn't know that they had all these different types of programs," Shakita Brown said.
There was also plenty of school spirit to go around at Saturday's event.
The Trayser family came to watch their two daughters perform a song in Chinese, something they learned at Mandarin Oaks Elementary -- and even though they're not looking for a new school just yet, they still say the school information is invaluable.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Duval County to spread the word about the different opportunities they have in the public school system," parent Amanda Trayser said. "I think it's good for people to know that they do have choices out there and how they can obtain them."
The district has this expo annually but in years past it only featured magnet schools. This year every school was included.
At each booth, students shared their first hand experiences.
"There's no wrong way of learning," Thomas Jefferson Elementary School student Carlos Alvarez said. "We have every kind of smart and we also have after school clubs."
Students got to share their favorite school subjects and why they enjoy learning.
"My favorite class is math," Ramona Elementary School student Ginell Glover said. "Cause you get to use tools and the number line and stuff to help you solve number problems."
"They help you with your homework," Rutledge Pearson Elementary School student Rodney Wells said. "You have enrichment and you have classes like cooking, step dance."
Duval School Superintendent Dr. Vitti said those personal stories are a part of a new initiative, "My School, My Story, My Way," and that it creates a deeper connection.
"The story that happens in our school should not only be told by people like me or the principal and teachers, but most importantly parents and students," Dr. Vitti said. "They're our clients."
With more than 150 schools featured, Dr. Vitti said Duval County ranked 13th in the country for school choice options.
He said it was a day for all to come together for a day to empower parents to make the best decision for their students.
Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.