GRACEVILLE, Fla. (WMBB) — A Jackson County school that many feared would close now appears to have turned things around.
Since Hurricane Michael, Graceville School had experienced a steady decline in the student population.
Last May, Jackson County Superintendent Steve Benton said if the K-12 school couldn’t get its numbers back up, they would have to make changes.
They were also worried about possibly shutting it down.
But now, Graceville School is experiencing considerable growth for the first time in years.
“We have new families,” Principal Carlan Martin said. “I had a family today come in and bring us the new student. We’re getting families at least maybe once a week. We’re getting a new family coming in that’s putting a child in our school.”
Martin said they have welcomed 50 new students so far this school year.
He added that he and his staff worked hard over the summer making improvements to the campus.
“I do think that we’re getting to the point now where we’re making parents feel like we’ve got a safe environment,” Martin said. “We’ve got a place that our kids can come in and get the small school environment and thrive and that’s what we want. We want to thrive, not survive.”
At the last Jackson County School Board meeting, the board and the superintendent agreed that if Graceville School continues to grow, it can remain open.
“When schools close, communities suffer and we do not in no way want to have to cause communities in Jackson County to have to suffer a school loss,” Jackson County School Board member Chephus Granberry said.
Martin said he hopes the student population will reach 500 by the end of this school year. It currently sits at 478.
He said one of his top priorities is improving the athletic program and boosting ‘tiger pride’ in Graceville.