Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Getting Students in Empty Chairs; That's the Focus of a Duval-Wide School Facilities Reassessment

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Getting Students in Empty Chairs; That's the Focus of a Duval-Wide School Facilities Reassessment

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Between the Beaches and Mayport, both sides of Duval County schools' facilities dilemma are clearly defined.

At the Beaches, Fletcher middle and high schools are both aging and overcrowded. In Mayport, however, the two elementary schools and one middle school collectively have hundreds of empty seats.

Those issues and more were discussed Tuesday night at a meeting at Fletcher High, the first in the School Board's yearlong initiative called the Academic and Community Excellence Plan.

These meetings allow the school system to obtain community input on how to solve the issues of school overcrowding and under-utilization throughout the county.

The meeting at Fletcher focused on the status of facilities and enrollment, looking at schools east and south of Florida 9A. Similar meetings will be held over the next two weeks at three other locations.

In the region that was the focus of the Fletcher meeting, there are about 4,000 empty seats. Over the next three years, elementary and high schools in the region will stand at 89 percent of capacity, and middle schools at 83 percent.

Included in the numbers are new school construction projects, including the new High School AAA near 9A and Baymeadows, a K-8 school on the same site and two elementary schools in East Arlington and Bartram Springs.

"This particular area is in relatively good shape," said Richard Beaudoin, a school planner. "These new schools are really going to provide relief."

However, that does not mean there still won't be changes in the region. New schools mandate boundary changes. There are also still issues of aging facilities that may require renovations or replacements, as well as balancing out enrollment.

For most of the meeting at Fletcher, district staff members answered questions jotted down on pink comment cards. …

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