Private school has plans to modify campus entrance

Private school has plans to modify campus entrance
Rendering of proposed new entrance to the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, which will include a guard house.
Landscape rendering offers a bird’s-eye view of the Y-shaped entrance, before a change in the plan which would allow school traffic to enter from one lane and residential traffic from another, prior to clearing the guard house.

Landscape rendering offers a bird’s-eye view of the Y-shaped entrance, before a change in the plan which would allow school traffic to enter from one lane and residential traffic from another, prior to clearing the guard house.

The Episcopal School of Jacksonville has submitted to the City of Jacksonville an application to put a security gatehouse on a public street at the entrance to its campus.

Currently, no guard house exists at the entrance to the school from St. Elmo Drive, which is also access from Atlantic Boulevard for residents of the adjacent Live Oak Manor neighborhood.

If the City’s Planning Commission approves the application, vehicles exiting Atlantic Boulevard at St. Elmo Drive – school and residential traffic alike – would have to go through the guarded entrance.

One of the concerns is a potential twice-daily traffic backup from Atlantic Boulevard while school traffic waits to clear security during drop-off and pick-up times, however, school administration has a plan for that.

“Passing the security guard house at drop-off and pick-up will be expedited by the special ESJ stickers all parents and students already have in their vehicle windows. There will also be two lanes of ingress and egress, whereas today there is only one,” said Meg Sacks, ESJ spokesperson. “Traffic backing up should not be an issue; upon reviewing our plans, the City did not feel a traffic study was necessary.”

Secondarily, what is to stop school traffic from by-passing security to take the residential lane through on St. Elmo Drive to the back of the campus?

“There will be additional security personnel at the back entrance to the school at the Middle School (but no physical guard house there). We also have security at the school entrance at the end of Highland Avenue/Art Museum Drive, and those gates are also locked during the day,” Sacks said.

“The guard house is simply another layer on top of many security procedures and policies we already have in place, some of which we share and some of which we do not make known publicly,” she said. “The guard house is not intended to render the campus impermeable; its purpose is to move the check-in point to the front of campus, increase security for all those coming to campus who aren’t parents or students, and to place security front and center.”

Property owners on St. Elmo Drive and Live Oak Lane are also concerned parking needs for events held on the ESJ campus will overflow into their neighborhood. The application, prepared by Almond Engineering, indicates “No parking on St. Elmo Drive, Live Oak Drive or Live Oak Lane will be permitted for picnic functions. Parking for picnics will be designated for Munnerlyn Drive and under the Hart Bridge. Overflow parking for picnics will be available in the sophomore and faculty parking lots.”

The application for the minor modification to the 1997 Planned Unit Development (approved under Ordinance 1997-834-E) was submitted Dec. 8, 2017. It was originally scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission at its Feb. 8 meeting, then was deferred to March 8, when it was again deferred. The item is currently scheduled to be heard at the Planning Commission’s meeting Thursday, April 5, at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall in Council Chambers.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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