Nease Faces Strain of Overflow from Bartram Trail

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

The student population at Nease High School will probably get a big increase next fall, primarily because of overcrowding at the new Bartram Trail High in the Julington Creek area, officials said this week.

That increases the pressure to find a new Ponte Vedra Beach high school location east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

St. Johns County School Board member Bill Fehling, who represents the Ponte Vedra Beach area, spoke at the Municipal Services District meeting Monday evening, unveiling new numbers that will push the Nease student population well beyond capacity.

Meanwhile, the MSD board approved a resolution supporting the School Board's efforts to find a new high school location east of the Intracoastal Waterway. While the trustees would not specify which site they'd like, they stressed any location in the Ponte Vedra Beach area is essential now that existing north county schools are overflowing.

Fehling released figures that show "Nease is anticipating an extra 150 to 300 students next year, potentially bringing their enrollment up to 1,800 to 2,000 students."

Overcrowding at Bartram Trail in the county's northwest corner is the main reason Nease will be forced to accept even more students, Fehling said.

Bartram is growing so quickly the School Board will use a "rezoning" system to define the new borders for each high school. The system is certain to move many students who would have attended Bartram to Nease by the fall, Fehling said.

Several areas in the northwest section of the county are under consideration for relocating students to Nease. They include communities along County Road 210 west of Interstate 95 and communities west of U.S. 1. Areas on Race Track Road and the communities near World Golf Village are also under consideration for rezoning students who might be sent to Nease or St. Augustine high schools, Fehling said.

Jim Welu, school district director for student services, said a northwest county school rezoning committee is expected to make a final recommendation by Monday. The recommendation is scheduled to be presented at a School Board public hearing Thursday, March 11.

The Florida Department of Education has already given the county the clearance to build two new high schools. Fehling said they'll have to be constructed by 2007 if they're to keep up with growth and one will have to be built east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

"What we're saying is that we are of the belief that a high school or schools should be built in the communities that they serve," Fehling said. …