JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The building of a new charter school in San Pablo is now underway and many community members are not happy about it.
The main reason for the dismay — there’s already a public school right across the street.
Residents in the area told News4Jax they were shocked and concerned when they learned a new school was being built across the street from Alimacani Elementary School.
“It’s going to draw resources, funding, and it’s going to bring our student enrollment down, and it could very much possibly affect our teachers. Everyone is worried about this school coming across the street from our school," said Lisa Britt, PTA President at Alimacani Elementary School.
San Pablo Road, just south of Atlantic Boulevard, is the planned site of a new River City Science Academy, a charter school set to open late next year.
“We had no idea that this charge was coming across the street. We found out, I think it was Tuesday when the trees started falling down,” Britt said.
Kenyatta Register is the chair of the Alimacani Elementary School Advisory Council.
"Every parent I’ve spoken to and just members of the community, no one is happy. Nobody knew about this,” Register said.
There are concerns that the new school will siphon-off the student population which already took a hit because of the pandemic. Last year, 885 students were enrolled and this year enrollment dropped to 803.
The new River City Science Academy is projecting to have over 500 students in its first year and could expand to 870 over the next five years.
“Their attempt to attract an already diminishing student population will also reduce our funding and the resources and the number of teachers but teachers at Alimacani are extremely concerned,” Register said.
Teachers and parents told News4Jax they were also frustrated that the school board signed off on the project so close to an existing school seemingly without notice.
The charter contract with Duval County Public Schools was on the public meeting agenda earlier this year when approval was given.
The application for the school was not required to give a specific campus site, and simply said, “River City Science Academy Southeast will be located east of Southside Blvd., preferably south of Beach Blvd.”
Charter schools can also be built without any community notification and the land across the street, formerly that of a church, is zoned for a school, although it doesn’t have to be, according to state law.
“They’re sneaking in the back door. This is all about money. This is not about students. They want to defund public school education. That is the goal," said Catrina Perkins, a teacher at Alimacani Elementary School.
One of the other major concerns from families and stakeholders is San Pablo Boulevard itself.
The two-lane road already gets backed up during pick-up and drop-off, they said, and a charter school is likely to make that problem even worse.