By Martie Thompson

Students across St. Johns County returned to school on Thursday, Aug. 10. According to District 1 School Board Member Beverly Slough, the district welcomed back more than 50,000 students this year.

“I visited all 10 schools in District 1 on the first day of school,” Slough said. “In every case, it looked like the 50th day of school rather than the first day — things were running so smoothly. Everyone looked cheerful and there was great learning taking place, even on the first day.” 

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Slough pointed out that this year, unlike many years, the district is not opening a brand new school.

“We’re grateful for the break,” she said, “but we will be doubling up and opening two new schools next year.”
There are two new principals in District 1 schools this year: Dr. Joy Reichenberg, an experienced principal, will lead Julington Creek Elementary and Drew Chiodo, a first year principal, will lead Patriot Oaks Academy.

At Freedom Crossing Academy, home to 1,960 students this year,  Principal Gina Fonesca was pleased with the first day at her school.

“It is so much fun to feel the excitement and anticipation of a new school year,” Fonseca said. “The teachers at Freedom Crossing have worked so hard over the last few weeks to prepare for our students’ arrival. Our goal is to make school a fun place to learn and grow.”

Freedom Crossing Academy is a “Capturing Kids Heart School,” which means they welcome their students, share Good News and build classroom Social Contracts. New this year is a revised Master Schedule, which has middle school students eating at the end of the day. Also, during a 30-minute block on Wednesdays, students meet with their House Teams to focus on Character Counts.

Julington Creek Elementary’s mascot, Jazzy, welcomed students back to school. The school has new additions to its administrative team, including new principal, Dr. Joy Reichenberg and new assistant principal, Jennifer Frank. They join Melissa Hatcher, an assistant principal who joined the school last fall. 

“It was a great first day of school,” said Heidi Karl, secretary at Julington Creek Elementary. “Some adjustments were made to our schedules because of the extreme heat, but everyone has adapted amazingly well.”

Mill Creek Academy is home to 1,990 students this year. Dr. Ken Goodwin, principal, said that due to the growth in student numbers, they have added additional staff, including a fourth assistant principal and another instructional literacy coach.

“It’s exciting to have all our students back,” Goodwin said. “We have a hard time sleeping the night before the first day of school, because of the excitement of a new year. We are fortunate to have our families, students, and staff with our overall positive school community culture.”

Photo courtesy Heidi Karl
Welcome back to school at Julington Creek Elementary.

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