August 20, 2008

Bartram Springs Will Be Site of New School in Mandarin In an Effort to Reduce Overcrowding, Officials Plan New Facility.


It's basically a big muddy field on Bartram Springs Parkway right now, about 11/2 miles off Philips Highway and almost as far south as one can go in Duval County.

In a year, the spot where Duval County's top school officials broke ground (mud?) Aug. 13 will become a new W-shaped elementary school on Bartram Springs Parkway. That means a school with room for about 800 students, giving the closest public school, Greenland Pines, a break from its current overcrowding.

It also means a neighborhood school for the homeowners of the burgeoning Bartram Springs community, planned for more than 1,400 homes. Pam Jones is one of those parents, with three children set to go to a new school that will be seconds from her home.

"We are very excited. It is safer to have it all in the neighborhood. The kids don't have to go that far," Jones said.

Greenland Pines Elementary School Principal Chiquita Rivers is also pleased that a new school is coming to help hers, which is over capacity despite adding 16 new classrooms a few years ago.

"It does alleviate the overcrowding. However, it's sad to lose the students. But it is good for the community and it is good for the children," she said.

The yet-to-be named $20 million Bartram Springs K-5 school will be built on 20 acres on the east side of the Bartram Springs community's entrance, donated by Eastland developers. Along with having what's called a "hardened core" so it can be used as a hurricane shelter, the 98,000-square-foot school will also be set up as a technology center.

School board member Tommy Hazouri said the new school will help the closest public school - Greenland Pines Elementary - which is overcrowded due to recent home and condominium development along the road.

It will also help Loretto Elementary School as well as the community it's in.

"This school is really about the children who live here. You come first. This will be an exciting time to have your own private little public school in Bartram Springs and southeast Mandarin," said Hazouri, who is running for re-election against John Turner. "We are very excited about this."

An acre next door has been set aside for a public library, although there are no plans for it yet.

The school district is also building a 2,200-student high school near Baymeadows Road east of Florida 9A that could relieve overcrowding at Southside high schools, and perhaps help Mandarin High School. That $70 million school should open in the fall of 2010.

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