JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The St. Johns County School District superintendent is asking for patience from the community as about 50,000 students prepare to go back to school Wednesday morning.
He said the biggest issues are expected to involve portable classrooms and transportation.
Superintendent Tim Forson said the district added more than 100 portable classrooms this summer to deal with the explosive growth, but not all will be ready tomorrow. He also expects some school buses will be over capacity as the district works to manage the influx of students.
“So we just ask for patience from parents, community members,” Forson said.
The district is in the process of building three more schools to deal with a more than 7% growth in student population in just the last year, but it can’t move fast enough.
“I would say this was probably 30 to 40 more relocatable classrooms than we’ve ever added in a summer,” Forson said. “So, you know, 121 [new portable classrooms added] is probably equivalent to two schools worth of classrooms. And so when you spread that over 16 or 17 schools, it’s a significant job to do to get that in place.”
Construction delays also forced Beachside High School to push its opening back until Monday.
Forson said there could also be transportation issues starting out, with over and under-capacity busses.
“I think one of the things, you know who the number of eligible riders are, but you don’t know who’s going to ride. And so until you get through that first week, or maybe even two weeks, you don’t fully know who’s going to ride,” Forson said.
Forson added there are also concerns over having enough bus drivers, which is an issue across the area.
As a result of the growth and pandemic challenges, Forson said there has also been a delay in the district getting its new high school math materials.
And then there is that ongoing teacher shortage. As of yesterday, there were still 49 teacher vacancies.