Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High School Site Search Is on Again; but It's Difficult in Ponte Vedra Area

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High School Site Search Is on Again; but It's Difficult in Ponte Vedra Area

Article excerpt

Byline: Hunter Valmont, Shorelines correspondent

St. Johns County school officials are trying to determine how small is too small for the site of a long-awited Ponte Vedra Beach high school.

With decreasing land options and increasing prices, the school district's site selection committee has yet to find suitable land on which to build a new school.

But a 13-member citizens committee could make recommendations as soon as the beginning of next year, officials said.

"We will know in the next couple of months what sites may become available," said David Toner, school district director of facilities and operations. "There are no sites that the committee wants to look at, to give further consideration."

Toner is talking with architects throughout Florida to figure the smallest number of acres required for the project, officials said.

With a new $131 million five-year building plan in place, school officials are looking for land east of the Intracoastal Waterway. Ideally, 120 acres are needed for high schools. Realistically, the school district may build on less than 40 acres.

"We know they can build on 40 acres -- with a stadium -- one story," said School Board member Judy Ham, who represents Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley. "If they build upward and get creative with parking or move the stadium, they would need fewer than 40 acres. Then, land would be more obtainable."

Currently, 1,225 Nease High School students living east of the Intracoastal Waterway must travel about 13 miles to school.

Nease parents and school officials are concerned about traffic safety for commuters as well as having a community high school in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Nease Principal Bob Schiavone said the new site must be large enough for the school and its facilities, and it must accommodate potential growth.

"Think about it. If they put the football field a mile away, the students have to travel to the field," Schiavone said. "Then it doesn't seem like it's their field.

"High schools are used about 18 hours a day by the kids, one way or another," Schiavone said. …

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