Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Better Think before You Vote on Jet Base's Return

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Better Think before You Vote on Jet Base's Return

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

Are you concerned that your children will have to attend overcrowded public schools in Jacksonville?

Are you worried about the quality of teachers who will be instructing your children?

Does the thought of paying even more taxes to support the public school system upset you?

You had better think long and hard on all three of those questions before you vote in November on a referendum on whether Cecil Field should re-open as a Navy master jet base.

The projected influx of 11,000 Navy personnel over a short period of time would further strain a school system where schools are already overcrowded and where administrators are already scrambling to meet the requirements of the class-size constitutional amendment.

School officials estimate the number of new students who could flood into the school system with the Navy's return at between 7,000 and 10,000.

Mike Saylor, the former planning director for Jacksonville, has said that school construction alone to meet the needs of the new students could cost $250 million.

It's easy to understand how that number could be reached. According to the school district, a new elementary school costs $22 million; a new middle school, $31 million; a new high school, $75 million.

Then there's the problem of finding land to handle new schools, plus the fact that property the school system has already purchased near the former base for schools would be unusable because of the jet noise.

Former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, currently a School Board member, is one of those who is worried.

That many new students in a short span of time "would have a chilling effect," Hazouri said during an interview last week.

"We could not build the schools fast enough," Hazouri said. "And what would that mean for our schools that are already overcrowded? …

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