By Martie Thompson

The minivans, bikers, and walkers are back, in addition to a sea of yellow buses. School started on Thursday, Aug. 10 in St. Johns County and according to School Board representative for District 1 Beverly Slough, everything went according to plan.

“We had no hiccups — even with all the administrative shifts we had in District 1, where eight of 10 principals were in brand new positions,” Slough said.

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Cunningham Creek Elementary welcomed Edie Jarrell, previously the principal at Wards Creek; Liberty Pines Academy welcomed Traci Hemmingway, previously the principal at Timberlin Creek; Patriot Oaks Academy welcomed Allison Olson, previously the principal at Julington Creek Elementary; and Creekside High School welcomed Steve McCormick, previously principal at Ponte Vedra High School

Brand new principals include Dr. Joy Reichenberg at Hickory Creek Elementary; Jeanette Murphy at Julington Creek Elementary; Kelly Jacobson at Fruit Cove Middle School; and Kirstie Gabaldon at Switzerland Point, who was appointed in the middle of the 2016-2017 school year and had her first opening day as a principal.

Slough, who visited each school in her district throughout the day to check in, was also pleased by the young smiling faces she encountered.

“Children were happy and learning. We are poised for another great year in St. Johns County,” she said.

St. Johns County continues to be one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. The student count for the St. Johns County School District on opening day, Aug. 10, was 36,253, which represents an increase of 1,347 students or 3.85 percent over last year’s first day number of 34,906.

The high school student count was 11,509 with 2,453 students at Bartram Trail High School; 2,107 at Creekside High School; 2,248 at Allen D. Nease High School; 1,739 at Ponte Vedra High School; 1,324 at Pedro Menendez High School; and 1,638 at St. Augustine High School. There were also 262 students in attendance at St. Johns Technical High School.

Middle school attendance totaled 7,426, with student headcounts ranging from 634 at Sebastian Middle School to 1,429 at Pacetti Bay Middle School. The other first day figures were Switzerland Point Middle School with 1,315; Alice B. Landrum Middle School with 1,255; Fruit Cove Middle School with 1,162; R. J. Murray Middle School with 758; and Gamble Rogers Middle School with 873.

The district’s K-8 schools welcomed 4,369 students. Liberty Pines Academy had a first day headcount of 1,424; Patriot Oaks Academy had 1,453 and Valley Ridge Academy had 1,492.

The largest population of students were those attending the district’s elementary schools. This population totaled 12,344, which included students attending the district’s new elementary school, Picolata Crossing. This elementary school headcount only includes approximately 25 percent of all kindergarten students since schools stagger the kindergarten start date over a four-day period. Another 207 students are enrolled at the district’s alternative, charter and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) schools.

First Coast Technical College has 238 students enrolled in its adult education programs at the St. Augustine, Palatka, Barge Port and North campuses. This number does not include those students enrolled in night programs that start today.

“Today was a great first day,” said Superintendent Tim Forson. “The dedication, time and effort that was put into preparations this year was proven in the smiling, happy students who walked through our doors today. I could not be more pleased with our principals, teachers and staff who enthusiastically stood ready to support and instruct each and every child.

“Transportation, food service, custodial and maintenance staff did a stellar job in handling challenges and celebrating success realized on the first day. The St. Johns Sheriff’s Office, Public Service Assistants and crossing guards were incredible in supporting our operations. Lastly, I want to say a huge thank you to our parents and families as we manage the beginning of the school year.”

St. Johns County School District staff will continue to monitor attendance numbers, balance classrooms and refine bus routes throughout the next few weeks.


Photo courtesy Shelley Howard

Eager parents lined the streets attempting to navigate traffic delays but, with patience, everyone arrived safely even in light of a few fender benders near Bartram Trail High School.

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