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More charter schools aiming for St. Johns County

4:52 PM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Two groups are interested in bringing more charter schools to St. Johns County.

The groups made presentations to the school board Tuesday.

Some parents were at the meeting, curious about what new charter schools could offer their children.

Melissa Nelson was one of them. She has two children at Nease High School.

"As a parent, you always want to know what's out there," Nelson explained. "Is there something better? Is there something I should be aware of?"

"I have been very satisfied with St. Johns County, but I'm always interested in learning more," Nelson said.

Six of the county's schools -- or 18 percent -- are charter schools.

However, St. Johns County School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner says the proposed schools are different from the charters already in place -- in size and in scope.

Kids Community College, mostly based in Tampa, proposes a charter for about 300 students.

Somerset Academy of St. Johns -- under Academica, LLC in Miami -- is asking to create two much larger schools. Joyner said it's proposing a 900 student K-8 school and an 800 student high school.

Joyner said the St. Johns County School District stands to lose $12.8 million and more than 200 teachers if the charter schools are approved.

Public money can pay for charter schools.

"When you lose that many teachers, you'll lose 6-7 teachers per school and so that impacts the offering we have available at our high schools, middle schools or elementary schools," Joyner explained.

Joyner also pointed out that "Somerset employs a profit-making management group. That's unique to St. Johns County."

Some school board members asked the groups why they want to come to help St. Johns County when the district has had the state's highest FCAT numbers for the last 4 years.

Kids Community College representatives said some residents asked them to have a school in St. Johns County.

Representatives for Somerset said they want to provide parents more choices.

After the presentation, Nelson said she feels St. Johns County is offering her children everything the groups are proposing.

She noted the groups' representatives "said they'd have schools in the county close by. Well, there are 3 high schools within 12 miles of me. They said I could sit in the principal's office and ask questions. I can do that now. They said 'individual learning paths.' My children get that."

If Nelson had to choose today to send her children to a charter school or to keep them in public school, she laughed and said, "Oh, my kids are staying at Nease! I wouldn't even considering moving them right now. The presentation didn't offer me anything my kids aren't already getting."

The final decision is up to the St. Johns County School Board. The board is expected to make the decision in September.

First Coast News