MIDDLEBURG – In what could be defined as a pilot program for the Clay County School District, Wilkinson Junior High School will be funded through the state as one of its first Community Partnership …
MIDDLEBURG – In what could be defined as a pilot program for the Clay County School District, Wilkinson Junior High School will be funded through the state as one of its first Community Partnership Schools. This is a 25-year commitment from the state to provide additional funding to combat some of the issues the Wilkinson community faces.
As the Florida Legislature moved toward the end of this year’s budget session there was one thing on everyone’s minds – school safety.
In the wake of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the state voted to allocate funds to try and improve the lives of students statewide. The money was to ensure that everyone is receiving everything they need to succeed – whether that be food assistance or mental health counseling – through these Community Partnerships.
“We invested $400 million in school hardening, school resource officers and mental health initiatives in all of our schools. I look at this as a part of that investment,” said Sen. Rob Bradley(R-Fleming Island). “These are long-term investments in our community. Making sure that we have a sustainable presence in the community so that every child has the tools they need to succeed.”
Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis said the state’s main focus of the partnerships will be ensuring academic learning while working toward solutions to issues such as systemic poverty, hunger, insufficient access to mental health and other healthcare, and elevated rates of violence and crime.
“Wilkinson was selected for a number of reasons. Sixty-five percent of students in this community are considered economically disadvantaged, whereas threshold in Clay County is 45 percent,” Davis said. “Also, the [County Road] 218 corridor doesn’t have same accessibility to healthcare and mental healthcare [as other areas in the county].”
Davis went on to note that the average ratio of physicians to citizens in the state of Florida hovers around 315 doctors for every 1,000 people. In Clay County the ratio is 185 per 1,000. Davis said that about 16 percent of the county’s students live in poverty and about the same amount are uninsured.
“I cannot tell you the potential that becoming a Community Partnership School is going to bring to students and to our community,” said Principal Christina Cornwell. “I’m very excited and very honored to be a part of it and for our school to be chosen for this.”
The program will begin this month as the school’s staff begins learning how to implement the state’s ideas for improving the school’s presence in the child’s lives, making sure each person feels content in their learning environment.
“I am excited that this community will now be exposed to increased high quality academic programming, onsite health and mental health services along with mentoring and leadership activities that will help students grow and improve their individuality and also to help them have a pathway to success,” Davis said. “This will bring year-round services for the community and the students, and we will continue to engage our community to have well-planned activities to extend to them.”
As part of the program, the school is partnered with four local organizations and businesses. Wilkinson’s partners include the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Baptist Health, who will all provide some form of medical, mental health or dental services as well as after school programming. Also, St. Johns River State College will help students academically by preparing them for and introducing them to higher education opportunities that they might not have considered before.
“There are particular pockets in our community that face challenges more than other parts of Clay County. This is one of the areas that has unique challenges, but also wonderful opportunities,” Bradley said. “This is just the beginning of a lot of wonderful opportunities.”