Q & A with St. Johns County School Board Member, District 1, Beverly Slough

Q: Can you give us any construction updates for NW St. Johns County schools?
A: The Mill Creek Academy expansion is nearing completion and we are looking forward to opening as a K-7 school this August. 

In the fall, we will begin construction on a new 20 classroom building on the campus of Liberty Pines Academy. This will increase the school’s capacity to 1,544. The construction costs will be funded by our half-cent sales tax, and we are grateful to voters for approving this back in 2015. We expect the building to open to students in fall 2020 and it will reduce the overcrowding at this school. The school board decided to expand the school since there is really nowhere logically to move students at this time.

Finally, by the time readers see this column, we will have executed the contract to purchase the land adjacent to Mill Creek Academy for the new high school. We will immediately begin moving forward with design work in anticipation of breaking ground. The tentative opening date of High School HHH is fall of 2021.

Q: Speaking of growth, do you have an estimation of the number of students expected to enroll in the St. Johns County School District this year?
A: We anticipate 42,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Things are not slowing down.

Q: What can you tell us about the recent state requirement that all students in grades six through 12 receive five hours of mental health instruction this school year?
A: We are trying to navigate this requirement at this time. We have several options to consider and it does have to be in place this school year, so we will have to move quickly.

Q: What is the latest on the school safety officers program?
A: We are entering into a partnership with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Augustine Police Department and the St. Augustine Beach Police Department to hire off duty officers to fill any gaps until we can hire permanent armed guards. All schools will be covered when school starts.

Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 1?
A: This year is the 150th anniversary of the St. Johns County School District. I find it interesting that when it was founded in 1869, the construction of schools was funded by taxes in the amount of 25 cents per $100 of taxable value. We will have a celebration of this anniversary later in the year.

Q: The first day of school is Aug. 12. What would you like people to know about this upcoming year?
A: First, we are very pleased to be the number one school district in the state again this year, and the gap between us and the number two district is widening. I attribute this to the careful attention we pay to each child and whatever his or her needs are to take the student to the next level in excellence in learning. We are excited to welcome the students back to school and look forward to great success in the coming year.

Q: How can our readers contact you?

A: They can email me at beverly.slough@stjohns.k12.fl.us or call me at (904) 547-7510.