Jackson County School Board officials considering merging schools onto same property

JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Jackson County Alternative School currently operates out of a building on the Old Dozier School property. School board members are considering moving students and staff to a newly renovated section of the Hope School.

A few years ago the Hope school moved into the old Riverside Elementary building. About half of the school’s campus was previously renovated. The school district had about $5 million from the state to renovate the other half. Now, district officials are considering moving the Jackson Alternative School onto the same campus.

“When they drive up to the old JAS they just see dilapidated buildings and some of them already have behavioral problems and when they see these old buildings, it’s just not enticing to them and when they come in now, they’re going to see a clean campus,” Jackson County Superintendent Steve Benton said.

At Monday’s workshop, many expressed concerns about these two groups of students being on the same property.

“I have kindergarten up through fourth grade and looking at your map I do have a concern because my little babies walk from here, they’ll walk right down this covered walkway down to the gym and see, I even wonder, are we going to share the gym? Are we going to share the track, how is that going to work with our PE teacher?,” a Hope School teacher said.

“Don’t take away from our kids, that’s my whole thing. They’re getting to keep their space, they’re getting to keep the things that they have learned to do, don’t take that away from them it’s not fair,” a Hope student’s mother said.

After hearing from the audience, all school officials and people from the community were invited on a tour of the campus.

“I’m going to speak frankly, I have some concerns about the logistics, I have some concerns about the risks assessments but hopefully we can all learn and improve as we roll through this well through hopefully some of those get answered,” School Board Chairman Tony Pumphrey said.

The one thing all sides can agree on is all Jackson County students deserve a safe and effective learning environment.

“The whole purpose was to remodel the school and have it where they would feel that we cared about them and we care about our Hope School children also, every kid in Jackson County Schools, we care about their education, their safety, and their well-being,” School Board member Michael “MJ” Jackson said.

School board members are expected to vote on the issue at Thursday’s school board meeting. If approved, JAS students could move to the new campus as early as this fall.

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