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Jacksonville Beach school closing, being bought by church

First Avenue Montessori School closed doors for good on Friday

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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – While most kids just started the new school year, some little ones in Jacksonville Beach had to say goodbye to their teacher for a final time on Friday because their school is closing for good.

About 30 young students enrolled in the voluntary prekindergarten program at First Avenue Montessori School will start new schools Monday, and many parents said the closure came as a surprise.

"Unfortunately on Tuesday we were taking a little bit aside when we got here, and there was a note on the door stating that the school was going to be closing, Friday was the last day," said parent Jacquelynn Sheptock. 

She said she had to scramble to find a new school for her daughter, and luckily she did. So after just two weeks in class, her daughter will now start a new school Monday.

"It is frustrating, I feel bad, you know, I think she is still a little bit confused. I don’t think it has really hit her, I just said she’s going to be going to a bigger school across the street," Sheptock said.

The school had been in business for 22 years, but St. Paul's Catholic Church and School is buying the school as part of a campus expansion.

The principal at St. Paul's Catholic School said their VPK program has been housed in portables for the past 10 years, so they are excited about having a new space for the kids.

Rose Gilbert, who has a 4-year-old son who attended First Avenue Montessori School, was also stunned about the short notice of the closing.

"We found out on Monday when we came to drop him off, so we are a little bit surprised. But the community actually is being really helpful, and we have been calling to get in to a VPK spot which most of them are filled obviously because there are only so many spots available." Gilbert said.

Jacquelynn Sheptock managed to find a spot for her daughter.

"I actually am enrolling her next door at St. Paul's so I think she will do well there," Sheptock said.

The Montessori school's founder, who goes by Miss Mary, will be retiring after serving for 22 years.

When asked about the abrupt timing, she said there was never going to be a good time to close. 

Many parents said they were able to find places to accommodate their children, despite the short notice.

About the Authors:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.