By Shelley Howard
On Friday, Aug. 10, traffic once again came to a standstill throughout the county as students and teachers returned to the classroom to kick off the 2018 – 2019 school year. Familiar faces helped ease the transition back for some students, but there were also plenty of new faces among the old as the county continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in the state and nation.
The crunch for space was alleviated somewhat with the opening of two new campuses in the northern part of the county, which will begin a phase in from K – sixth grade on into seventh and eighth over the next two years. Palm Valley Academy will service the Nocatee area and Freedom Crossing Academy will provide much needed relief in the Aberdeen area.
Freedom Crossing Academy assistant principal, Melissa Lime, was quick to acknowledge just how necessary additional schools have become, pointing out that it’s just not possible to only expand walls, auditorium stages, gymnasiums and hallways to make everyone fit without having to at some point create more physical space. The numbers confirm that as opening day found the new school with just more than 1,000 students. Some of these families came from Cunningham Creek Elementary, Hickory Creek Elementary and a few other nearby schools, but some have newly moved into the county from other districts within Florida and across the country.
The expert preparation of of the school district and staff over the summer months ensured that classroom space and teachers were ready for as smooth a transition as possible. Switzerland Point Middle School Assistant Principal Earl Brown acknowledged that families coming from northern states and families still moving around the county into new housing communities will continue to register, so it may take several weeks to level out classrooms. He complimented Principal Kirstie Gabaldon for her excellent budgeting and planning in handling their opening day enrollment of 1322 students, which is down approximately 100 students from last year, partially attributed the the opening of Freedom Crossing Academy.
Photo by Shelley Howard
Traffic was out in full force for the first day of school in St. Johns County on Aug. 10.