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Duval County School Board Votes Down Extra Time In Boundary Change Process

Cyd Hoskinson

The Duval County School Board has chosen not to extend the community input process for proposed school zone boundary changes.

The changes would affect 17 schools primarily in the urban core and turn many into magnet schools.

On Tuesday night, board members took up an item that would have allowed for about five extra months of community engagement on the matter.

Scott Shine urged his fellow board members to vote "no."

"So I think what we've done is we've reacted to wrong information," Shine said. "The public came to us with concerns that would be valid if the information that they had been exposed to was correct."

At a workshop last month, Congresswoman Corrine Brown and many of her Duval County constituents said they were concerned the 15-days allowed for 'working group meetings' wasn't enough time. But Shine says the public has many other opportunities to provide input.

The process required for boundary changes includes the appointment of 'working groups' made up of people who represent affected schools. Those groups will meet with the community and make recommendations to the Board.

Board member Connie Hall represents many schools that would be affected by the changes. She disagrees with Shine and says the community needs further time to be educated.

"And if it's inaccurate information, it's because we failed," Hall said. "It's because we did not share. If this is an opportunity to expand time, to share accurate information with our community, that's what we should do as elected officials."

She says no matter what, boundary changes disrupt communities, and if the community needs additional time, that's OK.

Although the board voted 4-2 in favor of allowing longer time for community input, a majority vote of five is required to pass an item. Chairwoman Cheryl Grymes was not present to vote. Shine and Jason Fischer voted against the extension. Neither have schools in their districts that would be affected.

Fischer said he's concerned that delaying the process may push the changes back a year. He says the Board should have a sense of urgency for school improvements.

The proposed changes are for the 2016-17 school year. Board member Becki Couch says she wants working groups to know pushing back boundary changes to the 2017-18 school year is an option if working groups recommend an extra year for planning.

Working group meeting dates have not yet been set.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.