A special workshop was held at the Sneads Assembly of God fellowship hall on Tuesday, December 13 at 5 p.m., to discuss the possible location of a new school that would cover East Jackson County students from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
The new school was initially proposed to be located in the Four Points area of Sneads, but due to environmental and financial issues, the Jackson County School Board is now looking to have the school built in the nearby town of Grand Ridge.
The meeting involved representatives from the towns of Sneads and Grand Ridge, along with the Jackson County School Board.
Following an invocation from Sneads Assembly of God Pastor Juno Douglas, Sneads Council President Mike Weeks opened the discussion by stating his preference that the new school be built in Sneads, because of the existing infrastructure available.
Jackson County School Board Chairman Chris Johnson then went over the problems that led to the decision to move the school’s location to Grand Ridge, which included issues with environmental and soil conditions in land that was already purchased in Sneads, as well as the additional expenses that would be accrued in preparing that site.
Sneads Town Attorney Dan Cox stated his belief that Sneads was better prepared to support a new school within the town limits than Grand Ridge, mentioning that Sneads has its own police department and fire services, as well as an in-town ambulance station.
Cox also said there was adequate land available from state resources in the Town of Sneads that could accommodate the new school.
Sneads Town Manager Lee Garner expressed concern that the town had no record of the school board providing copies of the Tentative District Educational Facilities Plan, which contained the reported change in the school’s relocation to Grand Ridge.
Garner stated that the Sneads’ town government only became aware of the district’s change of plans when he read a November 2022 newspaper announcement of a meeting on the subject that was to be held in Grand Ridge.
Garner also commented on concerns from parents regarding transportation issues, the extended amount of time their children would be spending away from home, and having smaller children on the same campus as larger older middle school students.
Finally, Garner commented that, until very recently, every discussion of the new school assumed that it would be built on the original 160 acres purchased at Four Points in Sneads, with no mention of Grand Ridge, and that he was even more concerned that the land purchased had been annexed into the town of Grand Ridge in May 2020.
Amy Glass, a teacher from Sneads Elementary School, read a statement requesting that the schools in Sneads and Grand Ridge remain as currently structured, with each school being upgraded as needed.
Glass pointed out that in the 15 years Florida schools have been receiving letter grades, the Sneads school has been the most “A” graded school and the best school in the county.
Glass also had concerns about combining the school and having all ages present on the same campus.
Following Glass’s statement, the meeting was adjourned.
Stephen Klein – Gadsden County News Service