JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the Duval County School Board was told that the Jacksonville City Council will make the ultimate decision regarding whether to place a half-cent sales tax referendum to fund repairs and replacements of schools before voters, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene explained in person to community members the proposals to replace the school district's aging facilities.
Greene spent a couple of hours Monday night at Ribault High School, sharing what she calls the big picture. Five separate scenarios were detailed for schools in that area, and how the district can remove, consolidate and/or replace the aging buildings.
"Our community wants great schools and part of great schools is ensuring that we have high-quality facilities," Greene said.
The event also gave concerned community members a chance to give feedback and a group called Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools took that opportunity.
"We do believe that our school buildings need attention. They need improvement. We have long gone unaddressed for some time and, of course, that impacts the learning environment," said Tameka Gaines Holly, with Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools. "So we understand that there are improvements needed."
She said the group sent a letter containing its recommendations on the school district's Master Facilities Plan to Greene earlier Monday.
"We had a community stakeholders meeting where we developed our proposal, or our alternative proposal. Then we sent it to the superintendent this morning," Gaines Holly said. "Hopefully, we'll have an opportunity to (have) dialogue around those recommendations."
Some people don't want to see their school replaced or consolidated. Greene explained the why of what’s being proposed, but asked people in the auditorium to explain what they like, dislike, and may propose as alternatives for the scenarios. She said it doesn’t matter who comes up with the best plan.
"We are here for our students and their families. And if they have a better scenario and if it's one that we can actually implement, then it doesn't matter who came up with the idea," Greene said. "What matters is that we're all trying to go in the same direction."
A representative from the city’s general counsel told the school board that if it approves a resolution to move forward with the referendum at its meeting Tuesday, it would be up to the City Council to decide whether to put the referendum on the ballot and, if so, when.
Greene said there’s broad support, based on research, but she knows the community will need to understand exactly what new tax revenue would be spent on.
The superintendent will also attend a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Raines High School, where she will review proposed plans for addressing aging school buildings in that area and gather input and suggestions from the public regarding the plan.