All Portable School On Radar For New Building

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If you happen to be in the 3400 block of Zillah Street, not far from the North Florida Fairgrounds, you might notice a series of portable buildings with numbers on them.

"When you drive up here and you look around and you think, this is a school?," said Charlotte Jernigan.

Pace Secondary is not only a school, it's where Charlotte Jernigan's grandson is a student.

The school is home to 77 students with emotional and behavorial disabilities.

It caters to all of Leon County as well as Wakulla and Jefferson Counties.

The school started with a handful of portable classrooms roughly 30 years ago.

As the need has grown for the students who need more attention and more personal space than typical students, more portable classrooms have been added.

But there's no gym and no cafeteria.

Last year, a cover was added so students wouldn't have to wait for a bus in the rain.

But Jernigan says it's far from enough.

"I'm concerned that in the event of a storm, in the event of a hurricane, these kids have absolutely nowhere to go," she said.

"Pace is a priority and it's also a priority of our school board too," said Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons.

Pons says the goal is to get a new school building for Pace, but there's no timetable to do it.

Pons and the school board have recently come under fire for spending over $400,000 on plans for a roughly $2-million 4 court gym at the Ghazvini Center.

The center houses two schools for troubled students.

Pons brother is the principal at one of those schools.

The Ghazvini Center gym plans are currently on hold.

Pons says a new Pace school would be far more expensive than the gym.

"You're talking about 7 of the gym projects or maybe even 8 or 9," he said.

"The school system has just not given them the proper support that they need," said Jernigan.

Pons says it's a priority to move all Leon County Schools students out of portable classrooms, including Pace students.

He says he plans to do it before he's done as superintendent.

But Jernigan says promises have been made about moving Pace to a better facility for 16 years and so far, nothing has happened.

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