St. Johns School Boundaries May Change

District Looks To Relieve Overcrowding; Parents Speak Out Against Proposals

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Big changes could be in store next year for students and families in the St. Johns County School District, which is looking to make boundary changes for several schools.

The idea has prompted parents to start a petition and form a Facebook page in opposition.

The district began hosting public meetings and workshops in late August to begin addressing the issue. District leaders told Channel 4 their reasons for looking at boundary changes are two-fold: to fill up a new elementary school slated to open in the 2012-13 school year and to relieve overcrowding for a number of schools in the northwest part of the district.

Through the public meetings, the district has used public input to come up with a series of proposals, but parents in the Durbin Crossing community say they aren't happy with the proposed changes.

Many children there either attend Durbin Creek Elementary School or Fruit Cove Middle School. Under the current proposals, students attending Durbin Creek may be rezoned to Hickory Creek Elementary, and students attending Fruit Cove may have to go to Switzerland Point Middle School.

"My son is a special needs child. He has autism," said Kaylin Palmer, who has a seventh-grade student at Fruit Cove Middle. "This is a very tough transition for him. It?s a tough transition anyway. Socially, it?s a struggle for him. Taking him out of the social situation that he?s comfortable with poses a whole new challenge for our family."

"We moved here a year ago, so they were all uprooted from their routine," said Andrea Califano, who has three children attending Durbin Creek Elementary. "We understand things like this have to happen in a crowded district, but they are concerned about making new friends yet again. It is the school board?s responsibility to have foresight for these (growth) issues."

Durbin Creek Elementary Principal Sandra McMandon told Channel 4's Vickie Pierre the school has felt the affects of the increasing enrollment. She said roughly 1,100 students attend the school which is built for about 800 students. The growing population forced the school to add seven new portable buildings this school year. There are now a total of 17 portable buildings on campus.

McMandon also said that about 100 students from the school stand to be affected under the new proposals. She said she is regularly getting emails and phone calls from parents who want their children to stay at the school.

"It?s a lot of stress on our infrastructure -- cafeteria, parent pickup, buses -- those kinds of things where we see the biggest impact," she said. "What I hope is for parents is to take that decision to heart and know the school board has really looked into that issue."

District officials said they have not seen an increase in capital funds because of a reduction of money from the state and also because of decreasing property values.

A workshop was planned 6 p.m. Tuesday at the school district administration building on Orange Street. The next meeting is slated for Oct. 4. District leaders said they anticipate voting on a proposal that day to be advertised in local publications.

The board is expected to make a final vote at the Nov. 8 school board meeting.

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