CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Clay County students return to school in less than a week and Superintendent Addison Davis said one of his district’s biggest challenges is finding money to repair crumbling, aging school buildings.
A proposed half-cent sales tax has been pitched as a way to raise the money needed to make those repairs as well as build new schools, but it is hung up in political quicksand.
“There's tremendous needs in our school district. Over $280 million of deferred maintenance in Clay County district schools. On top of that, the next five to seven years, we're going to have to build around five to seven schools, and that's going to bring over 15,000 newcomers and about 6,000 students that we'll be able to intake into our school district,” Davis said. “We've got to be prepared to address the $280 million deferred maintenance and the $300 million needed to build a tract of new schools for our newcomers."
Construction of new schools would also reduce the number of portable classrooms in use, which has been a concern for parents who reached out through our 4 Your Info tool. When Davis took over as superintendent in 2016, he said the district had 900 portables.
"What we've got to do is have better vision and planning when you have new builds," he said. "The half-cent sales tax will have an opportunity for portable reduction. Over the last couple years, we've reduced around 200 portables, but we've got to get to a point where we have brick-and-mortar classrooms."
For most parents, though, the everyday worries of back-to-school are filling up their thoughts ahead of the first bells ringing Tuesday.
“The biggest thing we're getting right now is -- Who is my teacher? Where is my bus route? What do we expect for the new school year?” Davis said. “All those things can be found on our website at oneclay.net, so we can be very open to what's happening for the school year.”
School safety is also top of mind as Clay County now has a school district police force.
“The other question that we're getting is -- How's the new police force going to play out with the opening of school?” Davis said. “Openly, to all of our parents and all of our students, the school district will look very different because we will have 47 young men and women at our schools ready to serve and protect for the first time ever in Clay County district schools history.”
Davis said their job is to not only protect the student population but also act as life coaches and mentors.
If you have questions for the superintendents of Duval and St. Johns counties, submit them on the 4 Your Info section of news4jax.com and we’ll do our best to get your questions answered.