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For months, the Flagler County School Board has tossed around various rezoning plans that are designed to relieve stress at certain schools and fill empty seats at other schools. That discussion came to a boil at Tuesday night’s meeting, when School Board members appeared frustrated with the lengthy process and no answers in sight.
The plan presented Tuesday by Mike Judd, senior director of school operations, was another preliminary plan that would make Indian Trails Middle School a K-8 (kindergarten through eighth grade) center.
Indian Trails was originally a K-8 school when it first opened, but after the addition of Belle Terre Elementary School, Indian Trails has become a middle school.
“This is just the beginnings of this conversation,” said Superintendent Janet Valentine, much like she said when the board discussed rezoning at its Nov. 8 meeting. “The rest of the schools would stay the way they are, with some relief also provided at Flagler Palm Coast High School.”
The School Board was informed earlier this month that it wasn’t a finalist for a federal grant worth about $30 million. The intentions were to use that money to go K-8 districtwide, officials said.
After missing out on the grant, staff continued to find ways to rezone and relieve some of the crowded schools.
School Board members, however, thought the plan was different. Board member Colleen Conklin thought that, regardless of getting the grant, districtwide K-8 centers were the ultimate goal.
“I don’t know how many times we have to have this conversation,” Conklin said. “We were going to look at (equalizing) the demographics that we have. We were trying to create a more fair and balanced school district.”
The catalyst for rezoning is two-fold: Flagler Palm Coast High School is over by about 250 to 300 students, which Matanzas has the capacity for, and the School Board wants to create more equal demographics at the two high schools.
School Board member Sue Dickinson, who sided with Conklin, said the board has been “pushing this puppy around too long.”
“We need to make a decision,” she said, “because otherwise, we’re going to be in August, and our parents are going to be screaming. I’m frustrated, we’re all frustrated. But I do recall at the workshop we had, we were waiting and expecting and hoping that we got that grant. I remember saying grant or no grant, we’re going K-8 districtwide.”
According to Judd, it would cost about $1.55 million in capital funding to create K-8 centers. That includes $500,000 for playgrounds at Indian Trails, $600,000 for four science labs at Belle Terre Elementary School and $450,000 for three science labs at Old Kings Elementary School.
Also, there will be a $605,000 annual price tag for transportation general expenses, according to Judd.
So, for about $2.1 million, districtwide K-8 centers could be created.
Conklin said in a follow-up interview that there are two conversations being had, which she believes is part of the frustration for all.
“One is about rezoning and the other is a goal that started long ago about moving our schools to the K-8 model,” she said. “The latter conversation has been ongoing since we did the addition at Bunnell and Rymfire elementary schools years ago. Either we are going to do it and do it right, or we’re not. Either way, I’d like to see a definitive plan and have us move on so we can begin sharing with the community.”
The board decided to take a full-day workshop to discuss K-8 plans in more detail, which will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Government Services Building. (The School Board has the Teacher of the Year breakfast that morning, and so the rezoning workshop might begin late.)