ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After open enrollment for next fall for St. Johns County schools closed, 163 parents had enrolled their students in a different school, and the vast majority of those were from outside the county.
Before last month, only children of parents living in St. Johns County could attend schools there.
Open enrollment ended Friday for Ponte Vedra Palm Valley Rawlings Elementary School off A1A is one of only four schools in the county with seats available for out-of-county students. The Webster School, Durbin Creek Elementary and Murray Middle School also had seats available.
The majority of those applicants came from Duval County parents, although about a third of the applicants came from within St. Johns County. A handful came from Clay or Putnam counties.
"St. Johns County does have the best schools in the state I've heard," said Avery Taverna, a St. Johns County parent. "I would like small classroom size funding for the arts so he can explore whatever he ends up being into and good teachers."
Currently, the line that separates Duval County from St. Johns County is a barrier between school districts as well, but beginning Monday, a parent in Duval County can send their child to school in St. Johns County if that school has room.
"Read the information you see available to you on our website and look for that," said Tim Forson, superintendent of St. Johns County public schools. "Understand that open enrollment in our county, just because of our environment, is limited."
Parents who send their children to a new district for school must arrange and provide transportation for their children.
"It would be nice for everyone to have the opportunity to take advantage of the education but we moved here specifically to this county for that reason because it was zoned for specific schools," said Jennifer Degorostiza, a St. Johns County parent.
Not every resident is in favor of new statewide change.
"We came from New Jersey, researched for two years for the best areas, found out St. Johns County had probably the best schools in the area," said Linda Bolger, another St. Johns County parent. "We moved here for the schools, so, no, I'm not in favor of it."
"A good number of our families and students came from other counties and even other states," Forson said. "Being a growing community, I think we're very open and receptive to recognizing that."
For county taxpayers concerned about paying to education out-of-county students, the district said that parent pay taxes wherever they live, no matter where their child goes to school, and the state pays a certain amount for each child, no matter which district, which classroom.
Other northeast Florida school districts also must allow open enrollment under state law, but it's not as big an issue because they are not growing as fast or their schools are not as rightly rated.
Duval County: Deadline for magnet schools is Feb. 28. Deadline for choice schools is May 15. Out-of-county students can only be placed after all in county students have been assigned and only if there are still seats available.
Clay County: A committee has developed a tentative plan that should be voted on at the April meeting of the School Board. Like St. Johns County, they don’t have many schools with room for out-of-county students.
Nassau County is currently in process of advertising its proposed open enrollment plan and determining which schools will be eligible, since its schools are also pretty full. The School Board scheduled to vote Feb. 23. They also don’t anticipate a large impact because they only share a border with two Florida counties: Baker and Duva.