ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Parents in one St. Johns County neighborhood are upset about a new proposed rezoning plan for students.
The parents in the RiverTown development in northwest St. Johns County told News4JAX they want students to go to the same school as their neighbors, but that might not happen with the district’s new proposal.
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The school rezoning proposal released this week would split RiverTown students into three zones. The St. Johns County School District said it’s desperately needed to address overcrowding at area schools, but not long after St. Johns County released the proposal, parents started an online petition criticizing it. It already has over 300 signatures.
“Our kids deserve better than to be shuffled around,” Angela Williams wrote.
“Keep RiverTown united,” Ashley Hardwick added.
Amanda Bright lives in RiverTown and has two children. She told News4JAX the latest plan would send her children to a different school than the children who live across the street.
“I think the biggest concern right now is that we have neighbors that are going to become strangers. We have children right now that have grown up alongside each other that knew each other that are comfortable, that have formed best friends,” Bright said.
The new proposal, dubbed Proposal C, would keep children in Shearwater going to the new K-8 school being built in that community next year instead of splitting that neighborhood into two. It would also affect six portions of RiverTown.
The plan would take 130 students from Freedom Crossing academy and move them to either Cunningham Creek Elementary or Switzerland Point Middle. It would also zone a group of students to go to that new K-8 school in nearby Shearwater that will open in 2023.
Brianna Nazaruk, a mother of three who lives in RiverTown, said what the residents really need is their own school.
“We always knew that we were going to be rezoned. But we’ve always been promised the RiverTown school. And so we drive by two schools to get to Freedom Crossing [Academy], which is where we’re zoned for now,” Nazaruk said. " We drive by schools to get to our school, but the only logic behind that would be because it’s temporary because they’re going to build our school, and then that would we all move together.”
The district told News4JAX on Thursday that there are plans for two elementary schools and one middle school in RiverTown, but that there’s no specific year for construction at this point.
The district’s long-term plan calls for 19 new schools in the next 20 years. The school district grew more than 7% this year and the census showed a 44% increase in the county population in the last 10 years.
RiverTown parents say the other two rezoning proposals currently on the table would keep the community more intact.
St. Johns County School Board member Beverly Slough said the three current proposals are fluid and will continue to change over the coming weeks.
“These are proposals, not decisions,” she said. “I don’t know how it will end.”
The parents News4JAX spoke to said they plan to come out in opposition to the new plan during public meetings in the coming weeks. There is a sense of urgency for them because the district wants to approve the rezoning plans in time for the new school year this fall.