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August 2015

Opening Day 2015

The student count for the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) on opening day, August 10, 2015, was 33,056, an increase of 1,385 students or 4.37 percent over last year’s first day number of 31,671. St. Johns County has continued to be one of the fastest growing school districts in the state.

The high school student count was 10,444 with 2,070 students at Bartram Trail High School, 1,981 at Creekside High School, 1,338 at Pedro Menendez High School, 1,926 at Allen D. Nease High School, 1,597 at Ponte Vedra High School and 1,532 at St. Augustine High School.

There were also 246 students in attendance at St. Johns Technical High School (SJTHS). SJTHS is located on the campus of First Coast Technical College and offers academic studies combined with career and vocational training.

Middle school attendance totaled 6,622, with student headcounts ranging from 575 at Sebastian Middle School to 1,126 at Fruit Cove Middle School. The other first day figures were Alice B. Landrum Middle School with 1,053, R. J. Murray Middle School with 676, Pacetti Bay Middle School with 1,181, Gamble Rogers Middle School with 800 and Switzerland Point Middle School with 1,211.

The district’s K-8 schools totaled 3,716. Liberty Pines Academy had a first day headcount of 1,285, Patriot Oaks Academy with 1,216 and Valley Ridge Academy with 1,215.

The elementary school population totaled 11,594; however, this count includes less than 25 percent of the kindergarten population since schools stagger the kindergarten start date over a five-day period. Another 434 students are enrolled at the district’s alternative, charter and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) schools.

“Today was a great start to the school year and I am very pleased,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner. “I visited many schools and witnessed the outstanding planning and preparation by principals, teachers and support staff.  Our students were eager to learn, reconnect with friends and start this school year strong. Our maintenance and custodial staffs had the schools in pristine condition and the food service team was very well prepared.”

“I am thankful to our transportation department, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and their PSAs, as well as the numerous crossing guards who ensure children get to and from our schools safely,” he added. “I am also very appreciative to our parents for their continued support and their patience as we work through the first days of this school year.”

SJCSD staff will continue to monitor attendance numbers, balance classrooms and refine bus routes throughout the week.

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Testing Task Force

In a very proactive approach, the St. Johns County School District has reduced district required testing by 50 percent. This was just one of the recommendations for the 2015-2016 school year made by the Testing Task Force that will be implemented. Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner created the Testing Task Force as a result of testing concerns including the number of exams administered to students, the negative impact on instructional time, the alignment of testing with instruction, the impact and subsequent stress on students and teachers, and the lack of communication at all levels.

The first step was to disseminate surveys to parents, students and teachers to assess feelings, beliefs and understanding of the current testing situation. More than 10,000 responses were received and compiled. Under the leadership of Deputy Superintendent Brennan Asplen, parents, administrators, district staff and teachers were selected to serve on the task force, representing all areas of the county as well as different grade levels and subject areas.

The task force focused on district level testing only, not those mandated at the state and national levels. After a series of focused and intensive meetings over a six-week period, the task force presented recommendations to Dr. Joyner and the School Board. The following recommendations will be implemented beginning this coming school year:

  • Testing will be reduced at all grade levels providing the most relief for the youngest students.
  • Priority placed on using the method of testing that will result in the least amount of time lost for instruction. This means that more paper/pencil exams will be administered than computer-based exams.
  • District final exams will be revised to improve alignment with instruction.
  • Middle and high school midterms and final exams will be limited to the final days of each semester.
  • District required midterm and final exams will each weigh 5 percent of the semester grade for middle school courses and 10 percent of the semester grade for high school courses.
  • District required assessments will have no impact on grades for elementary students.
  • Middle and high school students will take only one midterm and one cumulative final exam for each yearlong course.
  • Parent information meetings will be offered at various locations throughout the district.
  • A testing calendar for each school will be posted and clearly coded to indicate all state-, district- and school-required assessments.

“Testing remains a very real issue throughout the state, and we listened to our parents, teachers, students, administrators and the community,” said Dr. Joyner. “Taking a proactive approach to change how and when we test was necessary, and this will help us to better our instruction and further the achievement of our students. I am grateful for the hard work of the Testing Task Force and am very pleased with the results and implementation plan for these changes.”

For detailed information on the Testing Task Force and related materials, visit www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/testing.

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