Attendance zone changes approved for advertisement by St. Johns County School Board

Board will officially vote on attendance zone changes on May 31

Board will officially vote on attendance zone changes on May 31.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The five-member St. Johns County School Board approved advertising seven of the nine proposed changes to the school attendance zones of the county’s rapidly developing northside.

Two of the options, Nos. 4 and 6, were not approved for advertisement, meaning the board rejected them from further consideration.

The advertisement allows 21 days for any member of the public to submit an alternative solution to the county’s overcrowding issue. A public hearing is scheduled to be held Tuesday, May 31, at 9 a.m. when the school board will officially take action on the attendance zone changes. It’s worth noting that the options are not mutually exclusive and the board could approve any combination of the options.

The changes will affect Freedom Crossing Academy, Patriot Oaks Academy, Cunningham Creek Elementary, Switzerland Point Middle, Hickory Creek Elementary, Julington Creek Elementary, Palencia Elementary, Pacetti Bay Middle, Liberty Pines Academy, Allen D. Nease High, John A. Crookshank Elementary, Sebastian Middle School, St. Augustine High, Ocean Palms Elementary and Alice B. Landrum Middle.

The main motivation for the rezoning is school overcrowding, which is affecting several of the district’s northern schools as the county as a whole experiences a boom in its population and is expected to keep growing.

“These attendance zone changes will have no impact on small business, small counties or small cities,” the advertising notice document said.

But board members admitted the changes likely won’t solve the overcrowding problem for good.

“It sort of shares the pain until we can we can locate the funds necessary to make a permanent solution with new schools,” said board member Beverly Slough.

One of the proposed changes would move 182 students in the Oakridge Landing and Durbin Creek Estates neighborhoods out of Freedom Crossing Academy to Patriot Oaks Academy. That means Cheryl Grass’ two children would likely have to change schools -- again.

“So we built in this neighborhood so we could keep our kids at the school that’s around the corner -- 0.7 miles away,” she said. “And as we were building, they built the new school Freedom Crossing.”

That was three years ago. But, now, Grass’ house is slated for another attendance zone change, and she’s concerned for her older son, particularly, if more zoning changes are in his future.

“He has his friends that he’s made at this new school, and it’s a very small unit. He’s the only one getting rezoned. So he’s already stressing out about it,” Grass said. “So it’s definitely affecting him, and it’s going to be hard, very hard for him.”

The St. Johns County School District continues to face overcrowding and is planning to build 19 new schools over the next two decades. But the school board had to put plans for a new K-8 school that would have opened in 2023 on hold, saying the construction bids were too expensive.

So, as new schools are still in the works, the district is racing to keep up with the rapidly growing county population and making sure there’s enough classroom space for the future.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the attendance zone changes at four school board workshops and meetings next month:

  • May 3 – School board workshop
  • May 10 – School board meeting
  • May 24 – School board workshop
  • May 31 – Special meeting when the board is set to take a final vote on the attendance zone changes

If the school board were to make any changes after that point, then the timeline for public comment and approval has to start over again, pushing back any changes by more than a month.

A full list of the nine changes can be reviewed below:

Option 1

  • Freedom Crossing Academy is proposed to be amended to remove a portion of Geocode 053103 (Oakridge Landing and Durbin Creek Estates).
  • Patriot Oaks Academy is proposed to be amended to add a portion of Geocode 053103 (Oakridge Landing and Durbin Creek Estates).

Option 2

  • Freedom Crossing Academy is proposed to be amended to remove a portion of Geocode 053104 (including the following RiverTown neighborhoods: Arbors, Enclaves, Groves, Orchards, High Pointe, Manor and Preserve).
  • Cunningham Creek Elementary is proposed to be amended to add a portion of Geocode 053104 (including the following RiverTown neighborhoods: Arbors, Enclaves, Groves, Orchards, High Pointe, Manor and Preserve).
  • Switzerland Point Middle School is proposed to be amended to add a portion of Geocode 053104 (including the following RiverTown neighborhoods: Arbors, Enclaves, Groves, Orchards, High Pointe, Manor and Preserve).

Option 3

  • Freedom Crossing Academy is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 053102 (Middlebourne).
  • Patriot Oaks Academy is proposed to be amended to add Geocode 053102 (Middlebourne).

Option 4 (Rejected)

  • Freedom Crossing Academy is proposed to be amended to remove a portion of Geocode 053103 (Julington Lakes).
  • Patriot Oaks Academy is proposed to be amended to add a portion of Geocode 053103 (Julington Lakes).

Option 5

  • Hickory Creek Elementary is proposed to be amended to remove Geocodes 050101 and 050102 (a portion of Julington Creek Plantation and Fruit Cove Road).
  • Julington Creek Elementary is proposed to be amended to add Geocodes 050101 and 050102 (a portion of Julington Creek Plantation and Fruit Cove Road).

Option 6 (Rejected)

  • Hickory Creek Elementary is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 050103 (River Oaks Plantation).
  • Cunningham Creek Elementary is proposed to be amended to add Geocode 050103 (River Oaks Plantation).

Option 7

  • Palencia Elementary is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 034105 (Sandy Creek).
  • Pacetti Bay Middle School is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 034105 (Sandy Creek).
  • Liberty Pines Academy is proposed to be amended to add Geocode 034105 (Sandy Creek).

Option 8

  • Palencia Elementary is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 034101 (Cordova Palms).
  • Pacetti Bay Middle School is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 034101 (Cordova Palms).
  • Allen D. Nease High School is proposed to be amended to remove Geocode 034101 (Cordova Palms).
  • John A. Crookshank Elementary is proposed to be amended to add Geocode 034101 (Cordova Palms).
  • Sebastian Middle School is proposed to be amended to add Geocode 034101 (Cordova Palms).
  • St. Augustine High School is proposed to be amended to add Geocode 034101 (Cordova Palms).

Option 9

  • Ocean Palms Elementary is proposed to be amended to remove a portion of Geocode 034116 (a portion of Twin Creeks DRI - Beachwalk).
  • Alice B. Landrum Middle School is proposed to be amended to remove a portion of Geocode 034116 (a portion of Twin Creeks DRI - Beachwalk).
  • Liberty Pines Academy is proposed to be amended to add a portion of Geocode 034116 (a portion of Twin Creeks DRI - Beachwalk).

About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.