ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County School Board had a long discussion Tuesday morning about how to deal with the booming growth in the county, and for now, dealing with it means more portable classrooms and possible zoning changes in the northwest part of the county.
The changes are coming because St. Johns County can’t build schools fast enough to keep up with the influx of new students flowing into the county. The population has grown about 44% in the last 10 years, and there are no signs of slowing down.
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Now, the county plans to add 120 relocatable classrooms to 16 schools next year. It will also remove 17 total portable classrooms from two schools.
“That’s a large number. I think that’s the largest in [Superintendent] Mr. [Tim] Forson and my facilities’ run. We’ve come close before. We’ve never quite hit that number before, but the reason that we need that many is just that the growth is so expansive and it is happening in so many places,” said Nicole Cubbedge, St. Johns County School District executive director for planning and government relations.
The district grew more than 7% this year, and it could stay on that course for a while, so the portables are meant to buy time until more schools can be built. Only one new school will come online this year, a new high school in the Beachwalk community, but the district has plans to add four new schools in the next five years.
One board member wasn’t happy with the quick fix.
“Being in this position where we’re adding 120 relocatable is unacceptable. What’s frustrating is being limited in projections,” said Patrick Canan, School Board member.
That’s because the Department of Education’s growth projections doesn’t keep up with the district’s actual growth trends, which affects funding for new schools.
The board also plans to explore rearranging attendance zones in the northwest part of the county where much of the growth is concentrated.
“Especially living there and just going in and out of schools and looking. You have X school that is very vigorously populated. You have one school that is full but not as full. So if you have the ability to shift a little bit to give some relief and some support I think it’s only prudent and wise,” said Beverly Slough, School Board member.
The school district said that it will start to look into how some of the zoning changes would work starting in the spring and that they would go into effect for the start of next school year.