Mayport Shows Support for Finegan Elementary; Families Hope the Arrival of an Aircraft Carrier Won't Mean Closure of the School

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Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA

William Taggart and his family came to Mayport Elementary School on Tuesday night with hopes that his youngest son won't have to attend the school next year.

When officials announced the week before Thanksgiving that the Navy planned to bring a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport Naval Station by 2014, the Taggarts and other families in the area hoped that meant the Duval County School Board wouldn't close the school their children attend - Joseph Finegan Elementary.

But the families were disappointed Tuesday to learn that district officials were still considering closing the school next year and moving the students to nearby Mayport Elementary. The closure is just a recommendation right now, and the School Board would have to vote on it in February.

It isn't that all of the 200 or so families, teachers and community members who attended the meeting Tuesday object to Mayport Elementary. It's that they love Finegan.

"This place is like our family," said Brigette Taggart, a 15-year-old student who once attended Finegan. Her younger brother, Brandon Taggart, is in the fourth grade at Finegan.

Both Finegan and Mayport are below capacity and by consolidating the two schools, it will save money, Tracy Richter, an educational planner with the district's consultant, told the crowd.

The exact amount of savings wasn't known, but district officials said they wanted to free up as much money as possible to spend more in classrooms.

The school, which has about 400 students, declined to about 62 percent capacity after the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007.

The district is also considering closing West Jacksonville Elementary next year and moving the students to S.P. Livingston Elementary and closing Wesconnett Elementary and moving the students to Cedar Hills Elementary and Oak Hill Elementary schools.

But when the news came Nov. 17 that the Navy planned to base an aircraft carrier at Mayport Naval Station, some parents thought that meant things were looking up for Finegan, which backs up to the base. …

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