Clay County’s newest school will welcome its first students to class Thursday morning when more than 600 kindergarten through sixth grade students begin the school year at Spring Park Elementary on County Road 315 in Green Cove Springs.
“My favorite part is the anticipation of what is to come,” Principal Tiffany Outman said. “The first day we do a lot of goal setting. What do we want at the end of this? Begin with the end in mind and how are we going to make sure that we stay true to our vision and keep focused on the task and really take care of each other? Building that community, goal setting, and just everything great that comes with a new school year.”
Beau Outman, who is going into fifth grade, will be among the first Spring Park Owls to walk the hallways, starting Thursday.
“I get to be with a whole lot of wonderful people,” Beau said. “I get to learn with a lot of my friends and make new ones as well.”
There are 48 classrooms on campus, the cafeteria and auditorium share a space, a few top-notch play areas and the school is equipped to be an emergency shelter if necessary.
Principal Outman isn’t new to leading schools in the district. She has spent 13 years as a principal in Clay County.
“The ultimate goal of any education system is to produce literate, productive citizens of society,” Principal Outman said. “To do that in my world, I focus on two things: I focus on working hard and being kind. Those are the words that I live by and the way that I lead.”
Every single classroom in the school has state-of-the-art technology, including smart boards. They are adjustable. So teachers can set it to their height or get it to their students’ height.
Other technology keeps students safe while at school. Every classroom door locks as soon as it closes. They can only be opened from the inside where each door will have peepholes for the teachers and students.
“Just being able to provide this space for children in the area to really become a community school,” Principal Outman said. “The building is beautiful. The people who fill it are phenomenal. I cannot say enough about our teaching staff, our custodial staff. We are ready to welcome scholars on Aug. 10 and really provide that world-class education for them.”
Terri Anne Dicks, a sixth-grade math teacher, has been an instructor for 25 years and said this opportunity is unique.
“I got chills,” Dicks said of the official opening last month. “I actually got chills all over and tears in my eyes at just the opportunity to impact this community in a positive way.”
“I am a part of the history of Clay County, which means a lot to me,” Beau said.
The school cost a little more than $40 million. Spring Park Elementary broke ground on construction in May 2022.
It is the county’s 43rd school, and while there aren’t currently any others in the works, the superintendent said the district is keeping a close eye on growth.
The Clay County School District says the county could see between 7,000 and 10,000 more students over the next decade, and the superintendent recently told News4JAX the school district has a 5-year, 10-year and even a 15-year plan for how it could handle that growth and the potential need for more schools.
Clay County’s Spring Park Elementary is not the only one in our area. In Duval County, Spring Park Elementary serves students in the Spring Park area, near San Marco.