Overcrowding concern at St. Johns Co. schools

Parents, school officials discuss growing pains at town meeting

Published On: Sep 12 2013 10:22:28 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 13 2013 12:11:37 AM EDT
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ST. JOHNS, Fla. -

St. Johns county has some of the top performing schools in Florida, and one of the most desirable school districts. But that desire comes with some pitfalls. The school district says they are bursting at the seams with students. 

“We need five schools in the next couple years,” said concerned parent, Tom Peterson. ‘There’s no plans or funding to build them right now.”

Parents packed Ponte Vedra High School Thursday to talk about how to deal with the unprecedented growth in St. Johns County. 

“We’ve opened 10 schools in the last 10 years," said Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Tim Forson. "I think what you do is use your resources and build as rapidly as you can.”

Forson heard from parents about plans for the northwest and northeast part of the county. The real source of contention is in the northeast around Nocatee where there are two plans causing a lot of division. 

Concerned resident, Tom Peterson, said if the wrong plan is chosen, his kids will have to relocate.

“Do you think they’re planning for growth like they should be?” asked Channel 4’s Scott Johnson.

“Absolutely not. They’ve known Nocatee’s been here for years and we still don’t have a school built,” said Peterson. 

John Braddock told Channel 4 that his young children have already been re-zoned once and he’s almost certain that it will happen again.

“I’ve got a 7-year-old and 5-year-old. I tell my kids it’s an experience that’s going to make you tougher. You’re going to learn to make friends,” said Braddock.

Ocean Palms Elementary in Ponte Vedra already has 887 students in the school, but the ideal capacity for the school is only 667. At nearby Landrum Middle school there’s 1290 students and capacity is only 1053. To illustrate how fast schools are growing, Nocatee is a great example. Last year, Nocatee had 475 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Over the summer, 104 more kids moved in, putting them at 579 students.

“When you’re in a fast growing school district, it is always going to be a challenge,” said Tim Forson. “One of the big challenges where you’re growing by a school year,” said Forson.