JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An updated version of the Duval County School District’s plan to revamp the county’s schools was presented at Tuesday's workshop and it involves several big changes based on input from the community and expert research.
Some of the recommendations made by Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene for the plan will have to be approved at some point by the school board. Those recommendations include scrapping plans to tear down and consolidate some schools, a change that came in response to community criticism.
One of those communities is in Northwestern Jacksonville where the original Facilities Master Plan called for Raines and Ribault High Schools, which are just about a mile apart, to be replaced with new grade six through 12 schools.
Community members, parents and alumni did not like this idea. Following additional district meetings, it was decided that the schools will still be replaced with new buildings. But they will remain high schools that serve students grades nine through 12.
DOCUMENTS: Master facility plan recommendations
There are several other schools whose plans are different with the new recommendations, including Chets Creek Elementary School. While the original plan called for dividing the school in halves, Dr. Green recommends keeping the school as K-5 and adding new classrooms.
Overall, the recommendations for the new plan would save the district $400 million by bringing the total cost down from $1.95 billion to $1.91 billion.
Dr. Greene said highlights of the facilities plan include construction of 28 new schools rather than 30, and an 11-year reduction in the average age of each building compared to the 13-year reduction proposed in the original plan.
The new plan also includes 20 consolidations that would impact 40 schools. Children from those schools would attend new or renovated buildings. The plan would also remove 400-plus portable classrooms from use.
The plan would also consider projected enrollment by cutting more than 3,000 student seats from the district's rolls, which currently sit around 130,000. Greene expects enrollment to stay flat in the coming years as charter school enrollment grows, though most students attend traditional public schools.
The superintendent said the No. 1 priority of this plan is safety and security, falling right next to the district’s core mission of teaching and learning.
The school board workshop came just hours before the Jacksonville City Council held a meeting with public comment on the half-cent sales tax referendum, which would raise the funds necessary to pay for the $1.91 billion plan. Many who attended the meeting told City Council the measure should go to a ballot.