Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids in Clay Head Back to School Thunderbolt Opens to Ease Overcrowding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids in Clay Head Back to School Thunderbolt Opens to Ease Overcrowding

Article excerpt

Brit Garner is pumped up about being part of the first sixth-grade class at the newly constructed Thunderbolt Elementary School.

She likes that she gets to go to a brand new school, with all but a few of the classrooms under one roof, and that many of her friends from Fleming Island Elementary will be there as well.

But most of all, she said she likes that she and her classmates will be the big kids on the new campus and the first ones to graduate from Thunder- bolt.

"I'm excited," Brit said. "We'll rule."

She was one of many excited people wandering around the halls of Thunderbolt Friday, as families toured the $8 million school on Fleming Island. They met teachers who were still organizing their classrooms and administrators who were still adding students to the enrollment lists and changing teachers' room assignments, just five days before the school year started.

"We have been delightfully bombarded with students," said Principal Ed Bradley, who formerly ran Lake Asbury Elementary. "We were projected at 708 [students]. As of 1:30 this afternoon, it was 740."

Today, Thunderbolt opens for the first time, along with 28 other Clay County public schools that will be reopening after the summer break. About 28,000 students and 3,300 school district employees will be back at work.

The bulk of Thunderbolt students were transferred from overcrowded Fleming Island Elementary, but others came from Paterson and Charles E. Bennett elementary schools. Creating a unified school made up of students from a variety of communities -- from Green Cove Springs to Fleming Island to Orange Park South -- is the goal of the staff.

"It is wonderful, just a whole new experience," said Joan New, who moved from Lake Asbury Elementary to be one of two guidance counselors at the school. "We are excited about pulling together unique groups of communities . . . and making one group."

Edie Hayes and Shelly Lester, sixth-grade teachers at Thunderbolt, agreed.

"We have a good team. This is the most enthusiastic group I've ever seen," said Hayes, who taught at Fleming Island Elementary last year. …

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