Questions arise as parents send children back to school

Six local counties head back to school on Monday

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Monday marks the first day of school for six counties in our area: Duval, St. Johns, Baker, Flagler, Columbia and Alachua.

In Duval County, 51 elementary schools will go an extra hour this year to help improve reading skills.

In St. Johns County, two new schools are set to open: Valley Ridge Academy in Nocatee and Patriot Oaks Academy in St. Johns.

Kindergarten teacher Leah Davis and other staff members at Valley Ridge Academy were making last-minute preparations on Friday. But for teachers and students, the fact that everything is brand new makes a big difference

"We are so excited, and one of the neat things about being in a new school is the excitement is contagious and everyone is full of energy and can't wait to start school this year," Davis said.

Valley Ridge Academy is a high tech school. Students from fifth grade through seventh grade will all get a laptop computer. Younger students will work with iPads.

"Everything is working swimmingly," Principal Wayne King said. "Obviously, we will have things that need to change because of the growth. We will put something in place and access for the first couple of weeks, and the parents and PTO have been great in helping us do that."

West Riverside Elementary is one of the 51 elementary schools in Duval County where an extra hour of instruction will take place, and many parents are wondering whether the buses will still run on time.

"Normally students would leave at 3:00," said Duval County Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. "They will now leave at 4:00. We are providing regular transportation, not only pick-up but the end of the day at 4:00. Regular bus routes, regular pick-up locations will be in existence for the 51 schools."

Parents with transportation questions can call the transportation hotline at 381-RIDE on Friday night or Monday morning at 7 a.m.

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