For the first time since 2011, Duval County Public Schools celebrated the opening of a new school Thursday.
Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School is the first new school to open in the county under the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2020 and the first new school to open on Jacksonville’s Northwest side since 2008. The old school buildings were demolished and new ones built.
Hundreds of parents, students and community members packed the school’s new cafeteria to be a part of this celebration in the Sherwood Forest community. Interim Superintendent Dana Kriznar thanked voters for approving the half-cent sales tax.
“Your support is not going unrecognized or unrewarded as we continue to build and renovate our schools and improve the safety and security of schools across the district, which isn’t always sometimes so visible.” Kriznar said.
Voters approved the half-cent sales tax in November 2020, and the money goes toward renovations at schools and safety and security upgrades.
The school district says the 100,000-square-foot school cost $43 million and has 42 classrooms with the capacity to serve up to 906 students. The district says students from Henry F. Kite Elementary on Lem Turner Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary on Lake Placid Drive are now zoned to attend the new Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School.
School Board member Darryl Willie, who represents the district where Pearson Elementary is located, says Thursday’s opening is a powerful moment for the community.
“A number of people said it smells new in here, doesn’t it? And we take that for granted, but oftentimes in life like some of our students and families have never been in a new facility, a new house, new clothes, new anything. So for them to be here right now, for us to be here right now, to celebrate this moment, I want everybody to take a deep breath in,” Willie said.
This will not be the last new school to open in Duval County from the half-cent sales tax. The district says four more schools are under construction.
As the school was being constructed, Penny Lockwood lived across the street and had a front-row seat to what crews were building. She said her children went to the previous school on the property when it was called Sherwood Forest Elementary. Having this new facility in the community is a blessing, she said.
“It’s just amazing just to see. It’s like I would tell my husband, the technology that we have today is just amazing. It’s just amazing for the kids.” Lockwood said.
The four schools under construction are a new school facility at Jean Ribault High School in Northwest Jacksonville, expected to open in August 2025; a new middle school in the Chaffee Trail area, set to open in August 2024; a school rebuild at Highland Elementary, expected to open in 2024; and a school rebuild for Southside Estates Elementary, set to open in 2024.