Keystone Heights mayor asks board for a new elementary in her town

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 5/13/21

FLEMING ISLAND – The mayor of Keystone Heights told the Clay County School Board during the May 6 meeting her town needed a new elementary school.

Board member Tina Bullock has addressed the …

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Keystone Heights mayor asks board for a new elementary in her town

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – The mayor of Keystone Heights told the Clay County School Board during the May 6 meeting her town needed a new elementary school.

Board member Tina Bullock has addressed the capacity and structural problems that plague Keystone Heights schools at essentially every meeting, especially as of late. Her requests for further attention to be paid to the city have largely gone unanswered, especially since money from the recent half-cent sales tax has only just begun to come in.

“This aging facility is impacting community property values and as they continue to [fall], more people will notice the school district doesn’t want to take care of the school,” Mayor Karen Lake said. “In fact, this aging facility is not drawing people to the city of Keystone Heights and this aging facility sends a very negative message to staff, students, and parents that the district doesn’t value our living conditions as much as you value someone who doesn't live here.”

When Lake said “someone who doesn’t live here,” she was referring to the people expected to move into Clay County in the coming years as the First Coast Expressway brings in more people, already prompting the district knows it needs at least two new schools.

“The people who live here in the south end of the county are just as deserving of a new school as the people living on the outer end of the beltway,” Lake said. “Your response to the E.D.F.I.R.S.T plan for the city of Keystone Heights is to offer up another renovation of our school cafeteria. Our school is at 111% capacity. A renovated cafeteria is not the answer to aging plumbing, narrow sidewalks, flooding, or three generations of portables.”

“On behalf of the City of Keystone Heights city council, I ask you to continue this great partnership by prioritizing a new school inside the city of Keystone Heights because that’s where both schools and another school board property resides,” Lake said. “I’m asking not for more than we need or deserve. I’m asking that we be treated equitably with respect to the E.D.F.I.R.S.T. plan. When you build those two new schools created by the outer beltway, I ask that you build a third one in the City of Keystone Heights.”

Lake said the new school would be home to kindergarten-through-fifth grade students, and the current elementary would be used as a junior high for grades six-through-eight. The current junior/senior high then would be used for students in grades nine-through-12.

Superintendent David Broskie responded to Lake’s request during his update, citing the district is aware of the problems facing the Keystone Heights schools.

“I care about the community of Keystone,” Broskie said. “The students there are equally as important as the rest of our students. I know you’re passionate about this subject and I totally get it. Once the study is done, [it’s my understanding] that the board is going to have a workshop and discuss the issue and move it forward. As far as the sales tax goes, we’re voting on the oversight committee.”

The school board approved its oversight committee selections with a 5-0 vote and it’s this committee that will serve as the watchdogs for the district’s spending of the tax passed by Clay County voters.

“The most important thing to me is the showing of transparency of folks,” Broskie said. “Every penny that comes in ... needs to be transparent to the community and the role of that committee is to ensure that taxpayer money is going to be spent in the way which we referendum states that it would be.”

Broskie said the district is facing HVAC needs totaling $4.3 million and another $5.1 million in roofing needs, including at the schools in Keystone Heights.

“When I look at this, I don’t look at the [communities] just as [communities],” Broskie said. “I look at it as an entire district and certainly Keystone is a valued part of that district. It was estimated that we would receive $13.4 million over the course of a year. To date, $1,790,062.09 [has been taken in] ... essentially, there’s a two-month delay – January and February – to get the money to the district.”

Broskie said he’s proud of Clay County voters for investing in the district’s schools and he looks forward to tackling the issue at Keystone Heights.

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