DCPS moves forward with 4 transformational new school projects funded by half-cent sales tax

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The district is moving forward with four transformative new school projects across the city funded by the half-cent sales tax that was approved by Duval County voters in 2020.

Among the projects is Jean Ribault High School, which will be receiving a brand-new school facility — the first new high school building since Atlantic Coast High School was built in 2010. And that’s just one of more than 100 projects in the works that the district said are moving ahead on schedule.

RELATED: Online dashboard allows residents to track Duval school’s half-cent tax revenue

On Wednesday, Duval County Public Schools met with faculty and staff that will be affected by the first wave of projects coming over the next three years.

The projects are being funded by the recently implemented half-cent sales tax increase for more than $1 billion worth of outstanding maintenance projects, which the district said were put off due to state funding cuts.

According to the district, the new tax has raised more than $160 million since it passed and has already funded safety improvements for 42 schools.

But the biggest projects involve four new school projects.

The demolition of Rutledge Pearson Elementary in Northwest Jacksonville has been completed, and a new school facility is on track to be completed by August 2023, in time for the next school year.

“The average age of our school is over 40 years old, and many of the schools that we’re replacing are older than that. If you’d walked through Rutledge Pearson previously, the school was just dilapidated, is probably the best word. All of our students deserve a 21st-century learning environment. It matters so much to teaching and learning and that’s what we want to deliver,” said Dr. Tracy Pierce, DCPS Chief of Marketing and Public Relations.

Ribault High is also getting a brand-new $58 million school facility that is anticipated to be completed in August 2025. Construction is expected to begin next summer.

Jacksonville’s Westside, where the district is seeing considerable growth, is getting a new 6-8 middle school. The brand-new Chaffee Trail Middle, which will be located near Chaffee Trail Elementary, is anticipated to open in time for the 2024 school year and cost $38.6 million. The design meeting between stakeholders for the new middle school has been completed, and the district said it has received conceptual floor plans and proposed building elevations for the new school.

Highlands Elementary is also getting a new K-5 facility, which should be finished by August 2024. The cost: $28.8 million.

The district said there will be some big changes for students because of the projects.

Ribault High students will transition to Ribault Middle School for the 2023-24 and 2024-2025 school years, which will cause a trickledown effect for many middle and elementary school students in the area. Also, Pine Estates and Highlands elementary schools will consolidate into one school. (More details on the changes here.)

“That’s an element of the flexibility that is going to be required whenever we bring a new school online. And we will always have these conversations with the community to share our plans, to hear their feedback, to address questions that we maybe didn’t anticipate, problems we didn’t anticipate. We want parents in the community to be along with us for this ride the whole way,” Pierce said.

The district said the revenue generated from the tax is exceeding expectations because of strong consumer spending in the area.

“The other side of that coin is that inflation has also had an impact. So we’ve been able to maintain our schedule, maintain our pace based on that promise plan because we have the additional revenue that’s helping to offset some of the inflationary impacts,” Pierce said.

If you want to see how the district is using the sales tax money to revitalize schools, and more details about the projects in your area, click here.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.