Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fine-Tuning, Not New Schools, on Clay's Agenda after 2010; Boundaries Could Change, Elementaries Could Lose Sixth Grade

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fine-Tuning, Not New Schools, on Clay's Agenda after 2010; Boundaries Could Change, Elementaries Could Lose Sixth Grade

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

Since 2000, the Clay County school district has opened at least one new public school almost every year, occasionally two simultaneously.

That's the fast-paced school construction schedule the county's fast-paced growth demanded.

But growth has slowed to a crawl. Two new schools are under construction - Plantation Oaks Elementary, to open in 2009, and OakLeaf High, to open in 2010. But if current growth trends continue, there may be no more new school openings for at least three years after that, possibly longer.

"We've been cranking out a school a year," Jim Connell, director of facility planning and construction, told School Board members last week. "But we won't be opening another school until after 2013."

Also, the district will not be purchasing any more portable classrooms over the next five years, he said. And given financial breathing room on new construction, district officials hope to dedicate more attention - and funding - to maintenance and upgrades.

Despite the growth slowdown, the School Board still faces some tough school-capacity decisions.

Some schools remain overcrowded, while others have too few students. State requirements for balanced enrollment throughout the county will force the board to consider several options: redraw some school attendance boundaries, expand certain schools' cafeteria space to allow increased enrollment and reconfigure school grade levels in some parts of the county.

"This is very conceptual," Connell said. "We're looking at moving folks from where there is overcrowding to where we have space."

Grade reconfiguration would be a "drastic change," but may make sense, he said. The current structure is kindergarten-sixth grade at most elementaries, seventh-eighth grade at junior highs and ninth-12th grade at senior highs, but Clay earlier had middle schools with sixth-eighth grades. …

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