Vitti Recommends New Round Of Duval School Boundary, Specialty School Changes

Feb 16, 2016

Credit Duval County Public Schools

Jacksonville’s A. Philip Randolph High School could become a vocational academy and West Jacksonville Elementary could switch to a fourth-through-eighth grade school for kids struggling to keep up.

Duval schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti presented a second slate of boundary changes to the School Board Tuesday.


 

Earlier this month the Board approved six other boundary and program changes. Vitti says the changes will address issues of low-enrollment and underperformance in schools.

Tuesday’s recommendations came after community groups workshopped Vitti’s initial boundary change proposals. The groups either accepted, denied or modified what Vitti offered.

His final recommendations include:

R.L. Brown would become a “gifted and talented” dedicated magnet. Vitti initially rejected a working-group recommendation to also transform Susie Tolbert Elementary into a magnet of some sort. But he reconsidered at the request of board members Becki Couch and Connie Hall.

Hall said she’s concerned if R.L. Brown becomes a magnet, students would be pulled away from Tolbert.

Long Branch Elementary would become a school serving grades 3 through 6, and John Love Elementary would turn into a kindergarten-through-second-grade school. Those were Vitti’s initial recommendations to the working group. The group also added transportation for students within a mile of either school.

Also in Vitti’s final recommendations: Andrew Jackson High School should become a dedicated magnet for cyber security, sports medicine, IT and either robotics or game coding.

The Jackson working group did not recommend robotics, but Vitti added it and threw out the group’s suggestion to have the school teach a health and fitness track. Vitti says Jackson could attract Kirby Smith robotics students. During Tuesday’s meeting, Couch suggested robotics be changed to coding.

Vitti says the district should also offer internships to the Andrew Jackson IT students with the hope of those students' working in district tech positions.

Andrew Jackson is a "C" school, but Vitti says it’s on the edge of becoming state-sanctioned because it’s had failing grades in the past. He says one "F" could require the school to submit to a state turnaround plan.

When a school receives three D’s or two F’s in a row it has to plan its improvement with state monitoring.

Another high-school change would convert A. Philip Randolph into a vocational academy. Students would graduate with certifications in cosmetology, fire rescue or construction skills like welding, carpentry and plumbing.

Another change would convert West Jacksonville Elementary into a fourth-through-eight-grade “overage site,” replacing the James Weldon Johnson Academic and Career Training Center. Vitti says it’s crucial to drastically change West Jacksonville because the school has been doing so poorly.

Currently, JWJ-ACT is being partially used by Edward Waters College for extra classroom space. Vitti is recommending the district lease the entire building to EWC.

Vitti rejected the West Jacksonville Elementary working group’s recommendation to turn the school into a K-5 STEM magnet. Vitti is also recommending S.P. Livingston Elementary become a Pre-K-through-second-grade learning center. Vitti says there’s a natural demand for early learning in the area.

The working groups for First Coast High School and Oceanway Middle School rejected Vitti’s recommendations to change the schools’ boundaries. Some First Coast kids would have been directed to Ribault, and some Oceanway kids would have gone to Highlands.

Vitti accepted the group's rejection but said there will probably need to be a new middle school built in that area soon. The First Coast group recommended reevaluating boundary changes in two-to-three years.

Now the district will hold community meetings before the board votes.

A working group charged with making boundary recommendations for Northwestern Middle School is the only one left to give its recommendations.