The St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) and construction management firm Charles Perry Partners, Inc. (CPPI) jointly hosted a “topping out” ceremony last week to celebrate continued construction progress of the district’s new K-8 school slated to open in Nocatee for the 2018-2019 school year.
Held July 20 at the school’s construction site at 2135 Palm Valley Road, which is adjacent to Nocatee’s Twenty Mile neighborhood, the event featured the ceremonial placement of the last steel beam atop the structure, marking the conclusion of the school’s roof and a milestone for the CPPI contractors. District and CPPI representatives, as well as officials from architecture firm Harvard Jolly Architecture, signed the final beam before a crane lifted it atop the three-story building.
“It really has been a team effort, and it’s taken everybody putting in a lot of hard work and a lot of energy,” said SJCSD District 4 School Board Member Kelly Barrera during remarks at the beginning of the ceremony. “It really is going to benefit students, our families and the employees in our district.”
Up to 1,500 students are expected to attend the school, which is currently entitled “KK” until a permanent name is chosen. The building sits on 30 acres of property and consists of 190,000 square feet of operational space and 73 classrooms, according to SJCSD Executive Director for Facilities and New Construction Paul Rose. The school, Rose added, is being built and constructed to meet green building standards.
SJCSD Deputy Superintendent of Operations Cathy Mittelstadt explained in her remarks that the new facility is a product of the county’s continued growth in population, which she noted is rising by five percent each year. She added that revenues from the half-cent sales tax increase, which was enacted by St. Johns County voters in 2015 to support growing capital needs of the district, are helping to fund the school.
“We need new locations for students to perform and have an opportunity for great academic opportunities,” said Mittelstadt about the school, which will ultimately cost $35 million to build. “Today is evidence of that progress as we continue to move forward.”
PARC Group Community Manager David Ray agreed that the school is necessary to meet the community’s growth.
“One of the major reasons people move to Nocatee is the school system,” he said. “Seeing this, seeing this school come online, is something very essential and very exciting for everyone.”
Nicole Cubbedge, SJCSD’s executive director for planning and government relations, elaborated after the ceremony that in addition to revenues from the sales tax increase, funding is also coming from school impact fees and school proportionate share mitigation fees, noting that the latter have only been a funding source for the district since 2008.
Cubbedge explained that the process of creating an attendance zone for the new school will start this coming fall. She said it will be a public process, including town hall meetings and input at school board workshops. A public vote on the school’s attendance zone, she said, will take place in the November/December timeframe. Cubbedge noted that the naming process for the school will subsequently take place in 2018 once a principal is appointed.
Will Inman, a CPPI employee in the areas of business development and project management, said the school property will include ball fields, abundant parking and easy access to Nocatee Parkway and Palm Valley Road.
Overall, he said the facility will represent everything the district wants in a school, and that the “topping off” ceremony provided the district and CPPI with the opportunity to thank the contractors who have been working in the peak of the Florida heat to construct their vision into a reality.
“It’s a significant day because it represents the amount of accomplishment we’ve done out here over the past eight months of construction,” said Inman, whose company hosted a barbecue luncheon for the contractors following the ceremony. “The point of today is to thank them. We’re honored that the school district could participate with us in encouraging and telling these guys how much we appreciate what they’ve done.”