Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New High Schools Ease Crowds in St. Johns Pedro Menendez, Bartram Trail Each Welcome about 1,100

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New High Schools Ease Crowds in St. Johns Pedro Menendez, Bartram Trail Each Welcome about 1,100

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- With maps of their new school in hand, students scurried across the freshly planted courtyard of Pedro Menendez High School in search of their homerooms.

Some stopped to ask teachers and administrators directions, while others turned to friends, whose guesses were as good as their own. To freshmen, the first day of high school would have been intimidating regardless of a new building. To seniors, the first day at the new school was almost like being freshmen all over again.

"I'm a senior. I'm not supposed to be nervous," said Carey Murphy, 16, of St. Augustine South, who was a little worried about finding classes and not knowing people. "It's kind of confusing looking for classes."

St. Johns County's two new $31 million high schools -- Pedro Menendez in the south and Bartram Trail High School in the northwest -- opened their doors yesterday to more than 1,100 students each. In all, 18,986 students went back to public school countywide, about a 1.6 percent increase over last year.

The new high schools lightened the load at St. Augustine and Nease high schools, which each had more than 2,500 students last year.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm," said Bill Mignon, who calls being Pedro Menendez's principal a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"Everybody's happy to be here," he said. "If there are any complaints, it's that there aren't enough desks or stools in the science rooms."

Making sure there is enough furniture is the main challenge right now, Mignon said. "We were hoping 25 students per class with 1,000 wouldn't be a problem, but 160 to 200 more students creates some problems," he said.

Relieved of 1,000 students, students and administrators at St. Augustine High already noticed a change only four hours into the day.

"The difference is in the hallways between classes and the lunchroom," said Principal Michael O'Loughlin.

Last year, he said, the hallways were so packed that the school needed 10 minutes to move students to the next class. Yesterday it took only six minutes.

Students noticed the difference, too.

"You can actually walk without bumping into people," said senior Rebecca Scott, sitting in the cafeteria with her friend Shelly Traylor. …

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