Located on College Drive in Orange Park, next door to the
National Truck Driving School, is a high school with an
enrollment of 600 students. But the school doesn't have to worry
about crowded classrooms, parking or having enough computers for
Citizens' High School is one of a growing number of non-public
schools designed to assist parents who are seeking alternatives
to public education for their children. The school, like a
number of other non-public schools in Clay County, specializes
in designing home-school programs for the 600 students enrolled
in that school. Not all of the students are from Clay County,
Clay County has 18 non-public schools, compared to 28 public
schools. Additionally, the number of students who are being home
schooled continues to rise. In 1990-91 school year, 85
youngsters were home schooled. This year public school educators
predict that number will rise from 209 last year to 250 this
No figures are kept on how many students are enrolled in
private schools. The county's largest private school, St. Johns
Country Day, has an annual enrollment of about 700, however.
Larry Lark, who serves as president of both the National Truck
Driving School and Citizens' High School, said he has witnessed
the growth in home schooling first hand. The high school opened
in 1981 in Atlanta serving a small population of students who
were physically unable to attend conventional high schools.
In 1990, the school moved to Clay County. Although some Clay
County students attend the school, Lark said the school draws
from students around the United States.
"We have entertainers' children enrolled and people sailing
across the Atlantic Ocean enrolled," Lark said.
The trend he has seen at his school is that some years ago
parents were abandoning public schools for religious reasons.
But in recent years there has been an increase in enrollment
because "parents are afraid to send their children to public
schools" because of a growing number of social and safety
Clay County Superintendent David Owens said that one of the
major factors he sees in the growth of alternative education is
that schools are becoming so large they are losing the personal
"A small school usually stays stable," Owens said. "But as a
school grows and becomes larger, you lose kids because you lose
Elaine Lott, a mother who has had her children in home school
for several years, said that is a major reason she chose that
route for some of her four children.
"Some children just need more one on one than is offered in
public schools," Lott said.
Clay County Coordinator of Student Services Polly Partridge,
who handles requests from parents interested in home schooling,
said her office now handles 500 requests a year for home
schooling information packets. …