ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – As St. Johns County continues to grow, so does the school district.
It’s one of the fastest-growing areas in America, and district officials had a topping-off ceremony Thursday morning to celebrate construction of a new K-8 school to accommodate families moving into the Nocatee area.
Community leaders told News4Jax that they're trying to keep up with the demand, and keep class sizes small.
Sky 4 drone video captured Thursday showed dozens of construction crews working to finish the Palm Valley Road school complex within a year.
Builders have been working around the clock to have the school ready. It'll be at the center of a very busy neighborhood, where new families are moving in all the time.
"So far, we really, really like it," said Liz Holmes, one of St. Johns County's newest resident. "We just moved from a small town in Alabama."
Holmes and her family have been in Nocatee for about two weeks. She said one thing in particular brought them to the area.
"Because of the schools, specifically," Holmes said.
There's no doubt the area's A-rated schools attract a lot of people, and new construction can be seen everywhere.
"They know this is a place they want to live before they even come here," Nocatee Community Manager David Ray said. "That's something we see all the time."
Around 100 homes are sold in the Nocatee area each month. Ray said he's glad the St. Johns County School District has been keeping up.
News4Jax was there Thursday morning when construction crews and school leaders celebrated the topping off another school.
"We are so very, very, very grateful," said St. Johns County School District Deputy Superintendent of Operations Kathy Middlestat.
The unnamed K-8 complex off Palm Valley Road will open in time for the 2018 school year. The project costs $40 million, and is funded by the new half-cent sales tax. When the school is complete, it will be able to hold 1,400 students.
"We are at a growth rate of at least a school a year," said St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson.
Forson said the district is trying to stay ahead of the curve to keep from overcrowding.
"(We) always need more," Forson said. "The fact of the matter is the revenue typically follows after their families come and after the students are in place."
Holmes said she's excited for what's to come.
"I think they need more schools," the mother said.
The K-8 complex isn't the only project going on. There's another K-8 school, similar to the one in Nocatee, under construction in the northwest part of St. Johns County, and there's an elementary school being built in the World Golf Village.
Nease High School is also being expanded to hold about 600 more students.