Clay Schools to expand by one

New Oakleaf ‘School Y’ will relieve overcrowding

Eric Cravey
Posted 2/6/17

FLEMING ISLAND – For the first time since 2008, the Clay County School Board has voted to build a new school.

At the board’s meeting last Thursday, Elementary School “Y” in the Oakleaf …

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Clay Schools to expand by one

New Oakleaf ‘School Y’ will relieve overcrowding

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – For the first time since 2008, the Clay County School Board has voted to build a new school.

At the board’s meeting last Thursday, Elementary School “Y” in the Oakleaf area was unanimously approved for an estimated cost between $20- and $25 million. The school was not originally planned to be built until 2021 due to the slowdown in growth that accompanied the Great Recession, but recent economic growth has forced the district to speed up the process.

“The high point would be around $25 million,” said Superintendent Addison Davis. “I honestly believe, after all is said and done, we’ll probably do able to get it done for $22- or $23 million, but that’s us being very intentional about timeline, making sure we do our best to get the best contractor and the best supplies for the school in order to have a great opening and great launch for the 18-19 school year.”

The board awarded the combined architectural and engineering contract to the Orange Park firm of Bhide and Hall Architects at a cost of $852,800. The district will pay for the school using impact fees it has collected in the past decade, therefore, eliminating the need to finance it through the bond market.

Bhide and Hall – which will also oversee construction of the school – will use the same design it created about a decade ago to build Coppergate Elementary School. As planned, School Y will hold 886 students and will relieve overcrowding at Plantation Oaks Elementary and Oakleaf Village Elementary.

“If you remember last year, at this time, the superintendent took to the board to do some rezoning and, in that time, there wasn’t active engagement with the community and the rezoning wasn’t going to work,” Davis said.

In January 2016, former Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. proposed busing students from the Forest Hammock community and busing them past Plantation Oaks – their zoned school – and wedging them into the population at Argyle Elementary. By January 29, 2016, Van Zant withdrew the plan after a firestorm of parental engagement.

“So, my thought process is, that within the next three-to-five years, we have 300-to-500-to-600 houses going up. With that new development, we’re going to have to do something in order to be able to house our students,” Davis said.

Davis said it was his strategy to openly and publicly take the new school construction proposal to the board so they could look at the data and make an informed decision regarding growth in the Oakleaf community. Under the county government’s Oakleaf Master Plan, a total of 20,000 residential units are allocated for the total Oakleaf buildout, which began in 1999. Oakleaf High was the last school Clay County built having begun the project in 2008. The school opened on August 16, 2010 and had a final cost of $52 million.

“I will say openly, the board has been very supportive in this process, they’ve done their homework and they’re pushing us and holding me accountable to have the best experiences for our kids. I think School Y is a great need and it’s the first of many that may come on board because we have Tynes Elementary, and that area, is going to start to expand tremendously and we have a parcel ready to go and that could be next,” Davis said.

In the meantime, Davis, who was sworn in this past November, has ordered district staff to count each portable classroom in the district with the goal of eliminating those that are 20 years old or older. The goal is to lessen the use of portables and put more students back in brick and mortar rooms.

“We have 900 portables that are in Clay County and that’s really hurting our utilization so we have 742 that are 20 years or older. A state statute came out in 2003 and said, ‘Districts have to start working to remove and repurpose those portables.

“So, that’s part of the plan is to repurpose those portables and take them offline and use actual classrooms, which will increase our utilization. That means that other schools that may be underutilized, it allows us to continue to keep those schools functioning, but it allows us to go into motion to build,” Davis said.

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