2 new high schools coming in next 2 academic years in St. Johns County, staffing concerns arise

New school in St. Johns County

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — St. Johns County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As more homes are being built, the school district is trying to make sure there will be enough schools to keep up with all of the families moving into the area.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole spoke to the St. Johns County School District and the St. Johns Education Association about staffing concerns.

Content Continues Below

The St. Johns County School District is building two new high schools.

“High school HHH,” on 3660 International Golf Parkway, is set to open in fall 2021. Christina Langston, the spokeswoman for St. Johns County School District told Cole that when it opens, the address will be 11200 St. Johns Parkway.

“High School III” is located on Beach Walk Boulevard and is set to open in fall 2022.

Neither of the high schools has a name just yet.

The school board will determine the name of “High School HHH” during its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

“I think it’s a good thing because you have more people coming into the county — the county is growing. The new schools will be more state-of-the-art, offer more for the kids to keep us competitive,” said Karen Martin.

Martin has a daughter in sixth grade and a son in fourth to fifth grade (blended).

The school district’s human resources department told Cole, depending on [amount of teachers who] transfer, they anticipate needing between 15-20 teachers for each high school and will begin doing external postings in May 2021.

New taxpayer-funded school to be named in St. Johns County

“I hope that they can hire appropriately. I mean, they need to pay the teachers more; they need to have excellent benefits. Hopefully, they’ll be able to budget that and make it happen,” said Martin.

When Cole asked the district if it will have enough teachers to staff the new schools, it told her yes.

In a statement sent via email from the St. Johns Education Association president, Michelle Dillon, she said in part: “The ability to staff these new schools will be a concern if we still find ourselves in a teacher shortage situation. It’s hard to predict the staffing concerns when we don’t know the course of the pandemic – as we look to begin hiring next year, will we be emerging form the pandemic? Still combating rising cases? I believe the virus could have affect our ability to staff the new schools.”

Dillon went on to explain that COVID-19 has already “absolutely had an impact on teachers and substitutes” in the school district.

“Many teachers took a COVID-19 leave of absence, early retirement, and some have resigned due to concerns about the virus. As students and staff go on quarantine, we have an increased need for substitutes,” she wrote.

Dillon said, anecdotally, she knows that likely, there are many substitutes who are nervous about coming into the classroom.

“I know we have subs out there on a daily bases covering the vacancies, but there are likely many subs who are nervous about coming into a classroom,” she wrote.

Right now, the St. Johns County School District has 2,931 teachers.

When Cole asked if the district is experiencing a shortage due to COVID-19, the HR department stated, “We continue to have challenges filling some positions. These are usually the already hard to fill positions such as math, science and reading.”