Rapid growth could force county to rezone schools

St. Johns County building more schools to keep up with growth

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor

Call it "the price of being #1": St Johns county, the top ranked school district in all of Florida. However, now the school budget is having trouble keeping up with that success.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Hundreds of children in St. Johns County may have to change schools next year due to a boom in residential development.

The county is considering a school rezoning, and the school board will host a rezoning meeting Monday. The county has already acknowledged it has a student population growth challenge.

Some parents said they’re concerned about the proposed move and believe some children have been moved too many times.

The saying, “If you build it they will come” is a good analogy for St. Johns County. According to the July 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data, the county is home to 226,000 people. In 1980, it was just over 51,000. To put that figure in perspective, the average Florida county grew by 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Parent Jennifer Schultz is concerned because she says that growth is impacting children.

“Obviously they need to think about the infrastructure before they start building these huge neighborhoods. Its pushing kids out that are already zoned for specific schools,” Schultz said.

Currently, there are two new elementary schools being built. If the proposed restructure happens, it could impact the other 13 schools in the county.

Both schools under construction will be kindergarten through eighth grade. One of the schools, known as “KK,” is in Ponte Vedra and the other “LL” in St. Johns. The LL school has a $38 million construction budget.

“The teachers are amazing. The schools are amazing. It's truly a great community, but they are building all of these new neighborhoods and there is not enough room,” Schultz said.

The schools will be ready by fall 2018 but Schultz hopes the rezoning doesn’t affect children that have been moved before.

“For the continuity of kids and getting them in that regiment of being at the same school and knowing the same teacher, that is a really tough thing for kids,” Schultz said.

Duval County also saw an above-average growth, but nothing like its neighbor to the south. In 2010, Duval County had more than 864,000 people. That number rose to just over 913,000 in 2015, a growth of 5.64 percent.

Clay County beat the Florida growth average as well. The county had a population of almost 191,000 in 2010, but grew by 6.86 percent by 2015, reaching nearly 204,000 residents.

The town hall meeting for zoning changes is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. at First Coast Technical College, Building C, at 2890 Collins Avenue in St. Augustine.

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