JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The plan to combine Grand Ridge Middle School and Sneads Elementary School has been on the Jackson County School Board agenda for years.

“The bottom line is that the school board back in 2019 applied for special facilities for K-8 over in Grand Ridge and the money has been allocated and the site has been plan approved so you know it’s time to move on and do what’s best for the kids,” Jackson County Superintendent Steve Benton said. “Let’s get the school built.”

Within the last week, the public has brought up the project at a school board workshop and board meeting. Many do not want to see the K-8 school open up.

“Bigger is not always better,” a woman in attendance said. “Is it safer and better to have a larger number of students on campus? Is it safer to move the elementary into a town with no police department? What about the daily schedules and routine?”

Benton believes the new school creates advantages for his students.

“I want these kids to be in a state-of-the-art brand new building, it’s gonna be safer, it’s gonna be a better environment for our kids to be in and our teachers to teach in and so I feel like once we get everything done and everything, that most people be happy with it,” Benton said.

But, many said the decision to build the school was hidden and should be reevaluated.

“This was done behind the backs of your constituents, the people who live there and clearly, for the Department of Education, there is no deadline,” a woman in attendance said. “So there is time to reevaluate this, find a plan and money to update both schools, meet the needs of both schools, and preserve each community.”

Benton said the plans have been in public records for years.

“Probably since 2019 every board meeting or workshop we’ve had, we have discussed the five-year plan, and it’s always been on it so, you know, people that’s been to the maintenance or goes on the website it’s there for them to see,” Benton said.

Benton said the only time an elementary school student will see a middle school student will be at the bus loop.

The grade levels will be separated from each other on the property.