Superintendent willing to consider school board building move

Superintendent willing to consider school board building move

Envisioning the stretch of riverfront from the Main Street Bridge to the new The District – Life Well Lived – Jacksonville site is similar to playing the childhood game, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.”

Dotting the landscape are high-rise apartment and condominium buildings, hotels and restaurants, with more to follow once two large residential and retail developments begin construction in the near future.

Yet, sitting like a sore thumb between the old Crawdaddy’s site where Alliance Residential Company plans to build 300 luxury apartments and the 30 acres where San Marco developers Mike Balanky and Peter Rummel intend to build their futuristic healthy enclave of apartments, condos, upscale restaurants and shops lies Duval County School Board Administration Building and its uninspired parking lot.

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti understands that over the years developers have salivated over the idea of obtaining the five-acre school board property. Now as the area surrounding the six-story, 112,461-square-foot building is on the cusp of taking off, he said he is more than willing to entertain fair offers for the Duval County School Board Administration building so that it might be relocated to a more advantageous location for both the city and the school district.

Dr. Vitti Duval County Public Schools - Jacksonville, FL

Dr. Vitti Duval County Public Schools – Jacksonville, FL

“There’s nothing about being on the river in this location that is associated with student achievement,” Vitti said in a telephone interview. “I’m willing to sell the building at a fair price.”

Although he has not done any specific “leg work” or “analysis,” Vitti said an acceptable offer would have to meet the following criteria:

It would enable the school district to move to a central location, preferably downtown;

It would enable the school district’s headquarters to move to a newer, more environmentally-friendly building that would have lower energy costs and be less expensive to maintain on a yearly basis;

It would enable the school district to relocate into a building with plenty of parking that would cost less to upgrade than the one the school district currently inhabits.

“We’d like to have something in the general radius of where we are now, but not on the water,” said Vitti, a San Marco resident. “It could be on the outskirts of downtown.”

Ideally, Vitti would like to have the school district own its own building as it does now, but said he is not opposed to renting. “It would be great if we could purchase the land where we would move. Ideally, we want our own property, as we own what we have now, but I’m not against renting. It’s all about the cost,” he said.

Vitti also said he was willing to consider moving into a smaller building and relocating some of the departments now housed in the School Board building into Duval County school buildings that have unused space.

“The bottom line is the size of the building doesn’t need to meet the seating capacity of our current building,” he said. “I don’t think all of our departments have to be located in a central building. For instance, curriculum and instruction doesn’t need to be in a central building. It could be in different schools that are under-utilized. Also, the parent and community engagement office could be spread throughout the county,” he said.

So far Vitti said he has engaged in casual conversations about a possible move, but hasn’t been presented with anything official. “I’m willing to entertain proposals, but so far there has been nothing formal at this point,” he said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News
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