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FSCJ Trustees To Vote On Charter School Closure

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Florida State College at Jacksonville

As a national charter gets set to open next year, another local charter may be closing.The Board of Trustees at Florida State College at Jacksonville will decide the fate of the college’s eight-year-old charter next week.

FSCJ officials recently recommended an end to Pathways Academy, a program aimed at helping local high school dropouts continue their education.  If approved, the closure would take effect at the end of this school year.

FSCJ Communications Director Jill Johnson said the college is recommending the closure solely in an “effort to continue our mission which is to provide students with high quality, affordable and relevant degree career and community education opportunities."

The move was not based on any academic, staffing or monetary issues, she said.

“It’s strictly to really continue to focus on our core mission which is higher education,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education said that the school has not received a letter grade in more than two years because too few students at the school actually took the statewide assessment, similar to other GED programs.

Currently, the school has about 19 employees and 140 students with a daily attendance of about 70 students. The proposed closure would not affect thwe projected 27 students on track to graduate this June, said  Johnson. The college plans to work with Duval County Public Schools to place its remaining students.

“When the school was originally opened there weren’t a lot of opportunities for students in dropout recovery programs for students,” Johnson said. “But now, Duval County Public Schools has certainly put a lot of effort into enhancing programs in the school district as well as additional charter schools that have come along to assist those students.”

Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said while the closure won’t have a direct impact on the district, the overall number of students who drop out of high school does.

“I do think that we have a responsibility to ensure that they end up in another program,” he said. “We don’t want more students in Jacksonville or more former students in Jacksonville not having a diploma or a GED, I think that’s important to the city and bottom line it’s important for those individual students and families so we will help as best we can to place them.”

Vitti said the district loses money when students complete credited courses in  outside “drop back-in” programs like Pathways.

“I don’t have a problem with that because it ultimately means a student is moving closer to a GED or high school diploma,” he said.

News of the potential closure came on the same day Duval School Board members voted to approve a contract to open a new school on the city’s Southside that will operated by national charter school management firm Charter Schools USA. That school will open to about 660 students next fall.

The FSCJ Board of Trustees will vote on the proposed Pathways closure Tuesday.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.