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Families, employees of elementary school express frustration over nearby construction of charter school

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Employees and families of a local elementary school are frustrated as construction continues on a new, charter school campus right across the street from their public school.

Now, they’re demanding changes at the state level.

A month ago, stakeholders of Alimacani Elementary School said they were taken by surprise when they learned about the plans for a new River City Science Academy campus.

At the time, they said they wanted to figure out a way to put a stop to the project, but the way the system is set up for charter schools in Florida, makes that impossible.

Parents, teachers and employees at Almicani say it’s going to create some problems, one of which is traffic.

They say San Pablo Road already gets backed up during pick up drop-off times, a dangerous issue that will be compounded with another campus across the street since the charter school won’t have to offer bus service.

But the bigger worry is resources at the public elementary school.

There’s only a certain number of students in the neighborhood for which the state and district dole out a certain number of dollars.

Kenyatta Register, who chairs the Alimacani School Advisory Council, said the new school will draw students and public funds away.

“In Duval County appears, it appears that they’re popping up in different communities, and then that community becomes saturated, Register said.

Earlier this week, stakeholders met with the DCPS board chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen, demanding to know why the school board signed off on the project right across the street from an existing school.

The answer was that it didn’t.

A Charter School application only has to provide a general area where it wants to build, not an exact location.

“The school board essentially said it’s out of their hand, they have very little wiggle room to deny charters, regardless of their where they’re going in,” Register said. “So that would be one aspect is to allow more local control through the local school system.”

For the new RCSA campus, the board signed off on it being built “East of I-295, and preferably north of Beach Blvd.”

Also, there are only a few reasons for which the board is allowed to turn down a Charter School application, and location is not one of them.

Charter Schools are also exempt from the state requirements for education facilities.

Register and other stakeholders say it’s time for state legislators to take another look at the Charter School system and provide local districts more authority.

“Another is to consider fiscal responsibility and how with an increase in charter schools, the school system can become saturated,” Register said.

Leaders at RSCA declined to comment on this story.


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