Your kids may not be ready to go back to school, but chances are YOU'RE ready!
Action News Jax This Morning will be there to help families prepare for what's new this year in St Johns County, leading up to the first day of school and beyond.
Anchors Dawn Lopez and Phil Amato have both raised their kids in Jacksonville and they're familiar with what parents have to go through and the questions that need to be answered.
"My kids are older now, but I can still remember what it was like to get them and myself ready for the "back to school" routine," says Dawn. Added Phil, "Our experiences with raising families in the Jacksonville area gives us the unique advantage in our news coverage, knowing how we can help families prepare better and avoid some of the mistakes we've made!"
Our in-depth team coverage on Action News Jax will cover the many new laws and rules from the legislature as well as new transparency requirements for school curriculum and learning materials. We'll also cover the impact of School Resource Officers and budget cuts as well as a bus driver shortage, and we'll show you which cell phones are the safest for young kids.
You can watch Phil and Dawn and the entire Action News Jax This Morning team, weekday mornings starting at 4:30am on CBS47 or FOX30. You can also stream the newscasts live on the "Action News Jax Now" app, available wherever you stream.
"Every day you wake up, you get another chance to change your life." It’s a saying Chandler Morgan thinks about every morning as she’s getting ready to help you get your day started on Action News Jax. Chandler anchors Action News Jax weekday mornings alongside co-anchors Phil Amato and Dawn Lopez.
“There’s something really special when you think about what ‘the morning’ of your day really means,” says Chandler. “It’s a blank page, a new journey awaits.”
For Chandler, her journey started in Georgia. Born in raised in Atlanta, the peach state has always been close to her heart. Even at a young age, Chandler always knew she wanted to be a news anchor.
“After my first day of Pre-K, my teacher called my dad to tell him I was quite the chatter box,” says Chandler. “I think that was the first indication that my career should probably involve talking a lot.”
Chandler’s love for talking and connecting with people only continued to grow as she got older.
“I also, admittedly, am a nosey person by nature,” Chandler say’s laughing. “But I promise, its with good intentions only!”
She graduated from The University of Mississippi with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism with a specialization in Public Relations and sports. From there, she headed back to Georgia where she was an anchor and reporter for 2 years at the local ABC and FOX station in Columbus. Chandler then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina joining the local CBS station as an anchor and reporter for 3 years. During her time in Charlotte, she was nominated for four EMMYs and would eventually go on to win an EMMY for her outstanding field anchoring coverage.
As 2021 came to a close, Chandler started a new journey, moving to Jacksonville. “I’m always asking for recommendations on which restaurants I should try next, or which hidden gems I should go explore,” says Chandler. “Jacksonville has so much to offer!”
You can get your day started with Chandler Morgan every weekday morning on CBS47 and FOX30 Action News Jax.
Marcine Joseph is the Morning Traffic Anchor for Action News Jax This Morning.
She was born and raised in Miami, FL but is happy to call Jacksonville her new home. With Jacksonville’s growing community and diversity, she says moving from South Florida to Northeast Florida has been a great experience.
"I love Florida and I'm so happy to continue my career in the Jacksonville area."
Marcine is Caribbean-American and is from Haitian descent. She speaks both Kreyol and French.
She also speaks a little bit of Spanish from growing up in South Florida.
Marcine is excited to be in Jacksonville and wants to help you navigate your commute, weekday mornings on Action News Jax.
by Tamara Macfarlane, Owner & Teacher, Kumon Math and Reading Center, Nocatee
School supply shopping, comparing teacher assignments with friends, getting new clothes, shoes, bookbags, and more: This is what our back to school time used to look like for our kids. What a fun and exciting time it is!
This year things are different. Parents have so much more to consider when it comes to their children’s academics and education. Which school option should I choose? Will my child be safe? What happens if a teacher and/or student gets the virus? These are just a few concerns floating in the heads of many. Although families are undoubtedly facing these uncertainties, it doesn’t mean any sacrifices should be made when it comes to education.
I am honored to be opening a Kumon Math and Reading Learning Center in the Nocatee community. I truly feel like our children need Kumon more than ever with so many uncertainties in our world.
For more than 60 years, Kumon’s after-school academic enrichment program has helped children achieve success worldwide. Kumon strives to instill in children the desire to achieve and the motivation to learn on their own. Whether your child is seeking enrichment, needs help catching up, or is just beginning his or her academic career, Kumon is designed to help him or her develop a love of learning.
Students advance through the program at their own pace. Kumon’s emphasis on individualized learning helps your child become focused, motivated and self-reliant. At Kumon, we monitor each child’s progress to ensure comprehension before moving on to a new concept. With a strong academic foundation, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, your child has the potential to achieve whatever he or she desires.
In a typical year, students can lose up to 2 months of math and reading skills during the summer months. Due to COVID-19, experts fear learning loss will be much steeper with students losing 30% of reading and 50% of math. As an educator, this is frightening for so many reasons.
It is not the child’s fault that after spring break, they did not go back to the classroom, nor is it their family’s fault. However, we all must work together in a partnership to do whatever it takes to get our Nocatee children caught up and ultimately beyond where they should be academically.
Contact Kumon Math and Reading Learning Center at Nocatee for a free, no obligation placement test. After the placement test, you will be provided with valuable insights into where your children stand in their learning. From there, the Instructor will prepare an individualized lesson plan for your kids and support them as they progress through Kumon. Call us today or book your appointment online! https://www.kumon.com/ponte-vedra-at-nocatee/
How Martial Arts Training Benefits Kids Returning to School
by Bill DeGrafft
Ponte Vedra Martial Arts Academy
There are a number of benefits that come from martial arts training, especially as children are getting ready to go back to school. Among those are perseverance, respect for self and others, appreciation of structure, improved confidence, and acceptance of responsibility. Martial artists tend to overcome obstacles, treat others the way they wish to be treated, and understand the importance of taking personal responsibility for their actions.
Martial arts students learn that there are good days and challenging days. The latter are not bad days, but rather involve one obstacle or another that students must work through to successful completion. No obstacle is too big for a dedicated martial artist and no achievement is gained without hard work, and yes, sometimes a student of martial arts (as well as a pupil in school) experiences failures along the way. Martial artists are taught to learn from their failures and grow, whereas others might be consumed by their perceived inadequacies and surrender.
Respect of Self and Others
The tradition of martial arts begins and ends with respect. Respecting each other on the mats leads to respecting others in school and on the playground. You learn that your opponent is not your enemy, for without your opponent you can never rise personally. Therefore, martial arts training allows you to discover more about yourself and the amazing connection between mind, body, and spirit. More importantly, you learn that finding and maintaining balance in these three areas gives you better control on how you respond to the world around you, including how you react to other people who might seem at first to be roadblocks but are, in actuality, merely hurdles to jump over (or future friends to win over!). Martial artists also quickly grasp that tradition is important, and that we need to reflect on where we have been to see where we need to go.
Structure and Goal Setting
Martial arts training involves a good deal of practice and as each level is achieved students set new goals to reach so they can rise to the next stage of advancement. They also learn that regular practice yields continued improvement, that minor setbacks are temporary, and that the only people they need to compare themselves to are themselves.
Martial arts training builds confidence through overcoming challenges, not only in the dojang (the martial arts arena), but especially at school. Confident children also tend to be less targeted by bullies. Confident children are not easily influenced by others; they know who they are and who they want to be. They are a source of positive peer pressure, giving aid to others who are perhaps less courageous.
Martial artists learn responsibility for themselves, their families and friends, and their communities. They learn that doing their very best in class makes them feel good about themselves. This reward for hard work transitions to home in the way they contribute to the family through taking on chores willingly and by honoring their parents respectfully. It also extends to their communities, as martial artists tend to look for ways to give back. For example members of PVMAA regularly participate in “Giving Back” events where they contribute time and effort to local improvement efforts. Such as the charity kick-a-thon, food drive, and beach clean-up.
To sum up, martial arts training improves any child’s mental outlook. Much like exercise in general, it activates endorphins that make participants feel better about themselves. Even when the lessons are hard, overcoming difficult challenges makes it easier to surmount obstacles in general, such as making new friends in a new school, or standing up for someone you don’t know who is being bullied. Martial artists are not bystanders, they are participants in life who live fully for themselves and for others.
by Vanessa Kromer
Meet Creekside High School Varsity Cheer Leader and senior, Emily Kromer. Emily was recently chosen to represent CHS athletes as one of their Exceptional Seniors for the year. Being part of the cheer team at CHS the past two years has been such a wonderful experience for Emily.
When Emily is not cheering for Creekside you can find her dancing at Switzerland Dance School, studying for the many advanced courses she takes or participating in one of the many clubs at CHS that she belongs to. She was accepted into the Chick-Fil-A leadership program last year, as well as serves on FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), Best Buddies, and SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) clubs at school. As one of the commissioners for the Link Crew at Creekside, she also enjoys mentoring and helping the freshmen through their first year of high school.
As the oldest of five daughters, Emily will be the first to leave home for college next fall. She has a passion for working with and helping people, especially children. She desires to become an ER Nurse or possibly a Nurse Practitioner where she can work with patients as young as infants up to the elderly. She was accepted into the Teen Volunteer Program at Baptist Hospital- Beaches this summer working in the Emergency Room.
She is hoping to attend UCF next fall with a major in Nursing.
Emily is obsessed with all things HARRY POTTER and has spent over 2 weeks in Peru on a mission trip throughout the country.
Why Northern St. Johns Schools consistently Lead in School Performance and All Around in the State of Florida
Friends of ours recently moved to the area and one of the driving factors in choosing St. Johns was the opportunities afforded through our amazing public schools. Northern St. Johns Schools are part of the award-winning St. Johns County Public School District, named by Niche.com and 247Wallst.com as the #1 School District in the state. Many of the most highly regarded schools are located in Northern St. Johns.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of sending my children to SJCPS and have experienced many schools first hand, since one of my children has special needs. Our kids started out at Timberlin Creek and later went to Switzerland Point Middle, then on to Bartram Trail High School. Cunningham Elementary, Switzerland Point Middle & Creekside High School were amazing for high quality special needs teachers and programs.
What sets St. Johns apart is often the teachers at these schools who go above and beyond in their dedication to the students. But the schools are stellar on every level including academic offerings, championship athletics, and a social opportunities through clubs and other extracurricular activities.
According to Florida Department of Education school grades for 2018 (*from a press release from SJCPS): “The elementary schools receiving an “A” are Cunningham Creek Elementary, Durbin Creek Elementary, W.D. Hartley Elementary, Hickory Creek Elementary, R.B. Hunt Elementary, Julington Creek Elementary, Ketterlinus Elementary, Mill Creek Elementary, Ocean Palms Elementary, Palencia Elementary, Picolata Crossing Elementary, PVPV/Rawlings Elementary, Timberlin Creek Elementary and Wards Creek Elementary.
The middle schools with an “A” are Fruit Cove Middle, Alice B. Landrum Middle, Pacetti Bay Middle and Switzerland Point Middle. Liberty Pines, Patriot Oaks and Valley Ridge academies received an “A” as did Bartram Trail, Creekside, Allen D. Nease and Ponte Vedra high schools. St. Johns Virtual School also received an “A”.”
For our back to school issue we decided to focus on High Schools in northern St. Johns and really examine statistically why they are so amazing.
Ponte Vedra has 1629 students and is ranked #24 in the state.
It was chosen as a national gold medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: Biotech & Medical Research; International Business, IT
Athletics: Football 96th in state & 1233 Nationally; Lacrosse 5th in state & 67th nationally; Baseball 145th in state and 2504th nationally; Girls Softball: 190th in state and 3821th Nationally; Girls Soccer: 36th in state and 166th nationally.
Creekside has 2007 students and is ranked #27 in the state.
It was chosen as a national gold medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: Engineering & Environmental; Emerging Technologies (Digital Design or Cyber Security)
Athletics: Football 256th in state and 4114th nationally; Lacrosse: 26th State and 497th nationally; Baseball 66th in state and 1147th nationally; Girls Softball: 190th state and 3821th nationally; Girls Soccer 36th state and 166 nationally.
Bartram Trail has 2107 students and is ranked #45th in the State
It was chosen as a national silver medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: Vystar; Design (Interior, Fashion & Architecture); AIR FORCE JROTC
Athletics: Football 14th in State and 118th nationally; Lacrosse 35 in state and 632 nationally; Baseball 184th in state and 3129 nationally; Girls Softball 31st in state and 455 nationally; Girls Soccer: 9th in state and 33rd nationally.
Nease has 2059 students is ranked #81 in the state.
It was chosen as a national silver medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: International Baccalaureate; Communications; Engineering; Hospitality & Tourism; NAVY JROTC
Athletics: Football: 138th in state and 1884 nationally; Lacrosse: 11th in state and 266 nationally; Baseball: 168 in state and 2772 nationally; Girls Softball: 131st in state and 2263 nationally; Girls Soccer 12th in state and 46th nationally.
2018 Best Public High Schools in America; Niche
Best High Schools in Florida /Website US News and World Report
Florida Department of Education
by Jennifer Yarbrough
Walt Disney once said, “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children,” and Nelson Mandela asserted that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Looking around at the world right now, I worry sometimes about my own children. But then I look in their eyes when they discover new things and marvel at how much love they have for each other and others and I am given hope. To this end, I want them to have every opportunity in the world to be the best they can be, to realize their potential, and to affect their little piece of the planet. Education is the key to unlocking all of these things, so as we enter another school year, how can we help our children have a successful school year so they become all they are meant to be? I put that question to local parents and teachers. Here are their tips.
My first stop was Mrs. Beverly Slough our District 1 School Board Representative and longtime St. Johns resident, here’s what she had to say:
"We are looking forward to another successful school year in St. Johns County schools. Prepared and engaged students, along with excellent teaching are the keys to our success. I would encourage students and their parents to set goals for the new school year which include working hard to achieve to their highest potential. The school year can be stressful, but a regular schedule, adequate rest, and the realization that school is the child's job, just as Dad and Mom have jobs, help children to stay focused in the classroom. I would encourage parents to help their children select one or two extracurricular activities to keep them balanced and engaged. I would also urge parents not to overschedule their children. Many times, a child has activities four or five days a week, leaving no time to just be a kid. Balance is just as important in a child's life as it is in an adult's. Give your child the gift of time to imagine, explore, and just be a kid!"
Before Going Back to School
A little planning goes a long way in ensuring that your child’s school year starts off and continues well. Here are ways to get the school year off right!
“We read back to school books like the "Night Before Kindergarten" or "Night Before First Grade" by Natasha Wing and talk about our excitement and fear. We love the "Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn, it is such a sweet one to help with separation anxiety. When Sydney was in Kindergarten every morning we had a ritual where I would kiss her hands like in the book.” Jenn H.
“I talk up school all summer for my new kindergartener. I also have a countdown poster in the house to countdown the days until school starts, this keeps them engaged in reading and gets them excited about school.” Bethany L.
“We make sure to find out our class/teachers ahead of time (we look up their pictures in the yearbook if she doesn't know who they are), we go to orientation, and tour the school.” Jenn H.
“A few days before school starts we set goals for the upcoming school year. Goals (academic and social) might include being able to make new friends, do an after school activity, read higher level books, add bigger numbers (use specifics though like read 5th grade books, add numbers in the hundreds).” Jenn H.
Get into a Routine!
“A few days (or sometimes up to a week) before school starts we adjust our schedules, we go to bed earlier, cut down on nightly tv/device time, read back to school books before bed, and set out our clothes.” Jenn H.
“I engage my kids in the school supply shopping which gets them excited! We also go clothes shopping together and they help me pick out their new clothes.” Bethany L.
During the School Year
As the year continues on, having consistent routines at home sets the stage for success and makes children eager to learn at school!
Encourage them to do these in class!
“Ask questions and participate in class discussions.” Mrs. Zentz
Approach everything with a “Can Do!” attitude! Mrs. Zentz
“Sign up for all means of communication with your school and teachers.” Mrs. Zentz
“It is important for student-teacher-parent to work together as a team to guide the child on a positive academic and social journey through their education. It is very important to be sure to guide your child at home with reading and to monitor their progress hands on. I believe that ‘First we love them, then we teach them.’” Mrs. Neel
Encourage good study habits!
“Set up a homework/practice area and develop a daily routine.” Mrs. Zentz
“Help your students be organized with materials and time management. Have a set and separate place for homework time- NOT their bedrooms. Unplug for a time- there's something to be said for pencil/pen to paper!” Mrs. Carney
“This year I'm setting up a study center. Kids enjoy this project because they can personalize it and you can customize one yourself inexpensively.” Laurel M.
“We talk about our day. We have a nightly ritual where we have 4 questions..."What was your favorite part of the day?", "What was something that made you sad?", "What is something new that you learned?" (doesn't have to be academic), and "What is a goal you have?" (can be anything...Sydney loves to say her goal is going to Paris one day). Even if it's only one or two questions it opens the lines of communication as they get older they'll be more willing to talk to you and express their joys and frustrations.” Jenn H.
“Stay organized! Get everything ready the night before.” Mrs. Zentz
“Keep a family calendar on display so no one forgets important events.” Mrs. Zentz
“Preplan menus for school lunches and make some weeknight meals that you can freeze ahead!” Laurel M.
Sleep ‘technology free’ every night and stick to a regular bedtime. Mrs. Zentz
Outside of School
Allowing your children time outside of school and extracurricular activities to simply relax and have self-guided fun is important to their overall well-being and growth.
“Make sure to keep downtime and fun in the mix. Unscheduled outdoor time is so important for their development!” Carrie P.
Local mom Laurel wrapped it up by saying, “Most importantly, save some time to relish these last few weeks before summer is gone and school begins. Our babies are growing up! Have fun!” Enjoy this time, get prepared, and start the year off right with these tips!
by Shainna Rosenbaum,
8th Grader at Switzerland Point Middle School
I have always loved the ocean so when I heard about our school’s Marine Science Camp, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did.
It was amazing! Every day was a new adventure exploring salt marshes and wave energy, surfing, canoeing, kayaking, finding plankton in the water, fishing, paddle boarding. That and all of the grades go on a trip to a spring somewhere in northern Florida.
Upcoming 6th, 7th, and 8th graders can do the camp. There are 3 sessions for the camp spread out over the summer. The camp offers experiences in a lab or on the field in a day, sometimes both. During the camp you have 2 day rotations with different teachers.
A Typical Day at Marine Science Camp
Waking up bright and early! (Not very fun 6:00 am to be exact) Then you pack your bag for the day if you haven't already. Some things that you would have to put in your bag for the day would be an extra pair of clothes because you will almost always get wet. A big lunch because you will be hungry! SUNSCREEN you will get burned if you don’t use it, also a towel. The last important thing would be paper or a journal because when you get back from what you did that day they have you write a journal entry.
There were many highlights to the camp but my personal favorite was going to Blue Springs State Park located near Deland, Florida. For me the springs visit was on the last day of the camp. At the park you can go tubing, snorkeling or just plain swimming. There are many fish and also manatee. We used snorkels to look under the water and we were able to see the manatee and swim with them. Don’t be scared but the same is true with alligators (they don’t really come in the swim zone though).
Another thing I did that was really cool was go fishing at the Pellicer Creek Estuary with seine nets. We canoed from Favor Dykes Park to Princess Place where we saw marshes, mud flats and oyster beds up close. My friend and I caught a baby puffer fish and a lot of other cool stuff.
Wind surfing was pretty cool but not easy to get up in the air. We were at Anastasia State Park, at an estuary behind the barrier islands. I also learned how to use a Hobie Cat, or a catamaran which is a small sail boat.
If you are a middle schooler, you should definitely try Marine Science Camp – There is nothing quite like the experience!
by Debbie Gaylord
This past April my Step Dad Bob was on Matanzas Inlet beach fishing when he spotted a strange lump on the beach. After a few hours passed and it had not moved he decided to investigate and found a large turtle who seemed to be in trouble. He made the call to animal rescue and was connected with Catherine Eastman, "Cat" , the Sea Turtle Program Coordinator and Director of the Sea Turtle Hospital at University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory. As luck would have it, the Sea Turtle Hospital was only a few miles down the beach across from Marineland. Catherine was able to instruct him on what to do while waiting for animal rescue to arrive. Thanks to Bob, the sea turtle, a loggerhead later named Mongo Jerry (All the turtles at the hospital get a name) was saved and became a temporary patient at the hospital. After they removed the barnacles from his shell and gave him electrolytes he perked up and they transferred him to their Jekyll Island facility where there was more space since the turtle hospital here was full.
As a thank you, Catherine invited Bob and his guests (myself, my Mom, and my 2 daughters) to visit the hospital and learn about sea turtles. Inside the hospital there were about 12 turtles receiving treatment. It was amazing to see these majestic creatures up close and learn about them from an expert. We met Banana who was hit by propeller and was found in Melbourne, and Prince who was the tiniest of turtles and had little arm bandages. There were many others relaxing in pools, bandaged and healing so they too could hopefully return to the sea.
The Sea Turtle Hospital here in St. Johns is new, having opened its doors in November 2015 with the capacity to rehab about 12-15 turtles at one time. The goals is conservation of sea turtles through rehabilitation, research, and education, according to Cat, the hospital’s Program Director.
Injured and sick endangered sea turtles come ashore in Florida’s waters throughout the year for a variety of reasons, including boat strike, cold-stunning, swallowed fish bait and hook, exhaustion from interaction with commercial fishing gear and Fibropapilloma (FP) virus, one of the most infectious diseases among sea turtles. The disease is a virus that causes tumors to grow on the soft tissue of a turtle’s body. If not removed they can do damage and may even cause death. Many of the turtles found in northeast Florida must be sent to facilities in Georgia or central Florida and none of them are able to accept turtles with FP virus. Until now, the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is able to treat FP, providing valuable research discoveries for finding a cure and indirectly towards conservation of our ecosystem. According to Catherine, if we can understand what causes turtle tumors there are far reaching implications for human health as well.
The challenge is that sea turtles are difficult animals to learn about and even scientist who have studied them for years are still searching for details. Although, they live to be 80 to 100 years old, they are wild animals, preferring a solitary life and remain primarily submerged under water throughout their lives. Females come on land to lay eggs, returning to the exact same beach where they were born each time. Of the seven species of sea turtle, green, loggerhead, leatherback, kemps ridley, olive ridley, hawksbill and flatback, all are endangered, which is why conservationists are doing everything they can to help them survive. The loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles nest on the beaches of Northeast Florida.
The hospital is amazing to see in action. Cat and her team told us about innovative contraptions they create as they need them. Pool noodles fitted together serve as cushions while turtles are on the operating table, and life jackets connected help to keep a giant turtle's head above water in the pool while they are healing.
As I write, Cisco Kid, a green sea turtle who was found stranded on Hammock Beach in Palm Coast in January was released back into the ocean yesterday! Watching him flap his fins like crazy as he got close to the sea was a sure sign he was ready to go home! When Cisco Kid arrived at the University of Florida’s Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory, he was anemic and had turtle tumors on his shell. He was the first patient at the new sea turtle hospital to receive laser surgery for these tumors and to be released.
If you are inspired by Cisco Kid or Mungo Jerry and would like to learn more about the Sea Turtle Hospital and how you can help please visit http://www.whitney.ufl.edu/education-conservation/sea-turtle-hospital or call Jessica Long, Director of Development at (904) 461-4018. You may also join Friends of the Sea Turtle Hospital, or purchase a Sea Turtle License plate!
What you can do to help
St. Johns Magazine
St. Johns Magazine blog features articles written by & about the people, places and events of St. Johns and the surrounding communities.