By Martie Thompson
Nease and Bartram Trail high schools will be getting some relief from their extreme overcrowding soon, in the form of a brand new high school in the International Golf Parkway area. The St. Johns County School District has announced that High School “HHH” will be built on a 69-acre site situated adjacent to Mill Creek Academy on International Golf Parkway with a projected opening of fall 2021.
Nease and Bartram Trail high schools currently serve in excess of 2,900 students each, despite capacity of approximately 2,400 and 2,200 respectively, according to School Board member Beverly Slough.
“We are very excited about being able to construct this new high school a bit earlier than we previously thought possible,” Slough said. “It will be a beautiful school and will serve the community well.”
Slough said that instead of having to wait for the 2022 maturation of approximately $50 million in bonds that were used to construct Creekside and Ponte Vedra high schools, the district was able fully fund construction of the new school with new bonds.
“We anticipate breaking ground in late winter or early spring and have the school finished on time to open for the 2021 – 2022 school year,” Slough said.
High School “HHH” was designed by utilizing a reuse of a middle/high school from another school district that was adapted to the best practices of the St. Johns County School District. It is comprised of five separate buildings — administration/media center; auditorium, gymnasium, cafeteria and a classroom building — surrounding a secure courtyard. Slough said she is particularly excited about the auditorium, which will seat about 850 and will allow for community events.
According to Slough, the new high school will house three academies: Health Management, Construction Management, and Information Technology. There will also be an advanced program of study, as with all St. Johns County high schools. Slough said at this time, there is no agreement in place with the military to offer ROTC at the new school.
The zoning process will begin this spring, so everyone fully understands where their new “home” high school will be, Slough said. It is at that time that determination will be made if the school will open with a senior class.
Slough acknowledged public concern that it seems like as soon as a new school is opened, it is already overcrowded. She said while the state of Florida does require a certain capacity that must be met before new schools are constructed, St. Johns County has no problem meeting this requirement.
“We are constrained by money,” Slough said. “And the reason we are behind is because people are moving here so quickly. At the beginning of this school year, we saw 6 percent growth while we anticipated 3 percent. We are just beyond excited that this school will be coming online a year earlier than originally anticipated.”
While there is no apparent work happening on the school site at this time, because the property is pastureland and didn’t require clearing, Slough promised that “very soon” community members will see construction activity.
Rendering courtesy St. Johns County School District