Jacksonville FL - Duval County Public School Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene has now unveiled her recommendations for a nearly $2 billion dollar plan to address aging schools, and there are some big changes from the proposal that was initially put forward.
A draft Master Facility Plan had previously been unveiled to the community, to seek feedback and put together the final plan, which then faces a vote by the School Board. During a Tuesday workshop, Green outlined her proposal- which has come from the community feedback- and specifically the areas of change from the initial draft.
DCPS says, under this proposal, they are no longer seeking to consolidate William M. Raines High School and Jean Ribault High School with their respective feeder schools. The initial draft had called for both of those schools to be reconstructed as 6-12 schools, but instead, Green is proposing the schools are rebuilt, but maintained as 9-12. This portion of the draft proposal was something that parents and alumni had expressed the most concern about, citing safety concerns, among other things. Because of that, the District previously indicated the initial proposal would not be included in the final plan, and Greene’s presentation now confirms that.
Other changes from the initial draft to Greene’s proposal include upgrading and renovating Kirby-Smith Middle School and Loretto Elementary School in order to preserve their historic architecture, but not demolishing them to rebuild entirely. Under Greene’s proposal, Chets Creek Elementary would also be maintained as a K-5 school with classrooms added, and J. Allen Axson would remain at its current location while getting additional classrooms. The initial draft would have divided Chets Creek so thatK-2 would have been at Axson’s current location and 3-5 would have been at the current Chets Creek site.
Greene says her plan overall includes constructing 28 new schools across the district, which includes either building on an existing school site or on a new one. The new recommendations also calls for 20 consolidations impacting 40 schools, $1.08 billion in major school repairs, and 438 portable removals. As a result, there would be a drop of nearly 3,200 student seats, compared to 5,000 in the initial proposal. The average age of school facilities in Duval would also drop around 11 years- from 44 years to 33- compared to the 13 year reduction in the initial proposal.
Greene says this plan has been put together after a lot of research and meetings with parents during the last few months. DCPS says the overhaul is needed, in order to address huge maintenance needs among the old school facilities. The goal is not only to enhance the learning environment and safety of students, but to help put the District in a better position to attract and retain talented teachers and staff.
DCPS says Greene’s final improvement plan will be presented to the School Board sometime in July, for a final vote. Once a plan is approved, it doesn’t automatically mean work gets underway, though.
In May, we brought you coverage when the School Board approved a resolution that authorized a new half-cent sales tax for 15 years to help pay for needed improvements to schools. Its ultimately up to the Jacksonville City Council on whether to put the resolution onto a ballot for you to vote on. Some City Council members have expressed concern about the cost of a single issue election- which the District says they would cover- as well as the turnout. Others contend they haven’t heard enough about where the money would go, despite numerous public meetings that Greene has held.
The Superintendent’s full recommendation proposal can be read here.