St. Johns County superintendent addresses growth, school overcrowding

Superintendent says re-zoning plans expected in November

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - St. Johns County is home to some of the best schools in the state of Florida, but that success comes with a price and growing pains for both parents and the school district.

"Growth is probably the biggest risk in St. John's County. The amount of growth and the need to keep up with schools to make sure that we have schools for all of our children, that will be the biggest issue," said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner Monday night.

Joyner addressed the community Monday night during the St. Johns County State of the Schools address. He said the district is doing the best it can to keep up with growth, and come this time next year, St. Johns county will have two brand new schools open.

"When growth outpaces your projections and your funding, it creates a lot of concerns for the district, for parents and for schools as well," said Ponte Veda High School Principal Craig Speziale.

"We've grown 16.8 percent since 2007. So over the last five years, we're the fastest growing school district in Florida when you look at it from a percentage standpoint," said Joyner.

Despite building 10 schools over the last 10 years, the struggling economy and decrease in funding has made tackling the rapid growth in St. Johns county an uphill battle.

"$158 million -- that's 10 elementary schools. Had we not had those two things happen to use in 2007, that's the revenue we would have accumulated," said Joyner.

The two fastest growing areas in St. Johns County are the northwestern and the northeastern parts of the county. Last year Nocatee had 475 students enrolled in grades K-8. This year they've seen a large jump to 579 students.

Dr. Joyner said by next fall the two new schools open in Durbin Crossing and Nocatee should help ease some of the overcrowding issues.

"We have six more school sites in Nocatee alone, so the fastest growing areas that we have are in the northeast and in the northwest, so there will be new schools, which means we will be re-zoning for new schools," said Joyner. 

Many of the re-zoning plans will be up for final approval at the school board's next big meeting on November 19. 

Joyner told Channel 4 the changes mean that some students will have to change schools. Joyner said he knows that changing schools will be a difficult process, but will be important, and he encourages all parents to talk to their children about possible changes.

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