Q & A with Duval County School Board Member, District 7, Lori Hershey

Q: Can you give us an update on the board’s proposal to fund the facilities project with a voter referendum for a half-cent sales tax?

A: The legislation for the referendum was passed by the school board in April and has been filed with the City Council. It will go through the Rules and Finance committees on June 18, then it is scheduled for a vote by the City Council on June 25. The  school board cannot increase taxes; we must allow voters to make that decision. It is up to the City Council to determine if they want to let the voters decide. The school board will honor the results of the vote by the community.

Q: When does the school board propose for the referendum to go before Duval County voters?
A: The request as filed is for a special election in November 2019, because we have some failing infrastructure and want to address it sooner rather than later. Naturally, we will respect the decision of the City Council as to timing. We have not had a community conversation about the state of our schools, but we continue to see decreases in capital dollars over the past decade and feel we are at a critical juncture. Our goal is to provide 21st century learning environments for our students and our teachers. We also need to keep our schools updated to the state’s safety standards. For more information on this, readers can visit: www.ourduvalschools.org.

Q: What are some of the planned improvements for District 7 schools if the half-cent sales tax is passed?

A: District 7 would see many benefits, including but not limited to: a new K-8 school between Nocatee and Atlantic Coast High School; a rebuild onsite for Loretto Elementary, with preservation of the original six-room schoolhouse and majestic oak; and expansion of classrooms at Mandarin and Atlantic Coast high schools. All schools in our district will see improvements to existing facilities. I would like to remind our community that the district is unable to go out for a bond without an additional revenue source, which this proposed sales tax would provide.

Q: What is the latest on the Seventh Generation Classical Academy charter school application?

A:  The application for this charter school was previously denied by the board because it failed to meet requirements set by the State of Florida. The applicant remedied the issues and the application has now been approved. It will open in August as a K-3 school and eventually expand to a K-12 school. The school will be located on Old St. Augustine Road, very near River City Science Academy – Mandarin and Christ Church’s private school.

Q: Is there anything that can be done about the already congested traffic in that area of Old St. Augustine Road?

A: The City of Jacksonville will be installing a traffic light on Old St. Augustine Road that has been funded by the River City Science Academy. The River City Science Academy is not in charge of when the light is installed, however. That is up to the city and at this point we do not have a definite date.

Q: Do you have any other updates for District 7?
A:  The school board will participate in Master Board training beginning in June. This is an opportunity to increase professional development and build a strong team.

The school board would like to remind everyone that the access to Loretto Elementary School via a private gate in Oldfield Point is for residents of Oldfield Point only. The roads in this neighborhood are not designed for heavy traffic flow and congestion and safety issues result when the gate is utilized by more than its intended purpose.

Finally, congratulations to the Class of 2019! It is always exciting to see students who graduate from high school with their A.A. or A.S. degree. I’m always impressed with the amount of scholarship dollars earned by students at each respective school.

Q: How can our readers contact you?

A: They can email me at HersheyL@duvalschools.org or call me at (904) 316-3609.