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Education

UPDATE: Duval School Board Approves Several Boundary And Program Changes

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Lindsey Kilbride
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WJCT News

Updated 1 a.m. Wednesday, April 6:

The Duval County School Board approved a new slate of school program and boundary changes Tuesday.

The transformations are part of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s plan to address the district's low-performing and underutilized schools.

The Board previously approved six changes at February’s meeting, and a hearing for more changes is scheduled for later this month.

Here are the latest changes to be approved:

Andrew Jackson High School

Beginning next school year, Andrew Jackson High will become a dedicated magnet. The programs will phase in beginning with next year’s ninth-graders.

Students will be able to focus on sports medicine, sports marketing, advertising, game coding, information technology, or cyber security, which the school already offers.

Andrew Jackson doesn’t yet have a school-performance grade for this past year. but Vitti says it’s projected to receive a “C” or “D.” Last month, the community group Friends of Northwest Jacksonville stood against the Jackson changes, saying the school is improving and on the right track.

But Vitti cites low performance as a reason for the school’s change to a dedicated magnet. Over the last 15 years, Jackson has received 10 “D” or “F” grades. It also has a 48 percent utilization rate. District data show this school year, 314 would-be students opted for magnet programs, and 58 attend charters.

Next year’s freshmen who are zoned for Andrew Jackson would be split between Raines and Ribault high schools unless they submit an application opting in to the magnet.

Paula Wright was the only School Board member to vote against the school change. She said there are other ways to recruit students other than making schools dedicated magnets.

But Vitti disagreed. He said it’s time to do something different.

“I think the only way that we are going to effectively recruit from outside the boundary and within the traditional boundary of Jackson is to not only revamp the programs but also create a dedicated magnet at the school,” he said.

The district will pay about $145,000 in transportation costs for the Jackson students Raines and Ribault High Schools will absorb.

District staff presented this data about the shift at a community meeting in March.

Richard L. Brown Elementary

R.L. Brown will become a gifted and talented academy.

District data show 378 students attend the school, but it can serve up to 537. Since 2011, the school has received two D’s and two F’s, making it a “turnaround school” required to submit a “turnaround” plan to the state.

Vitti says there’s a demand for gifted and talented education in Duval, pointing to the Jacksonville Beach Elementary gifted and talented program, which has a waitlist.

Students traditionally zoned for R.L. Brown will be split between Long Branch and John Love Elementary Schools unless they opt in to the gifted and talented program.

During discussion, Board member Connie Hall voiced concern about dedicated magnets’ historically pushing out certain students.

Less than 1 percent of the school’s students are gifted, but all who currently attend will have priority if they opt in. There won’t be an academic requirement to go to Brown.

Board members voted unanimously for the change with the stipulation added by Becki Couch that the school provide a school-choice event to educate parents about their options.

District staff presented this data about R. L. Brown at a community meeting in March.

John Love and Long Branch Elementaries

John Love and Long Branch Elementary Schools will be split into a Pre-K-through-second-grade center and a third-through-sixth-grade school, respectively.   

The schools are about 1.5 miles apart.

District data show John Love and Long Branch, both “F” schools, can collectively hold 701 students, but 462 students attend the schools.

John Love Elementary will focus on early learning. Vitti says students who attend early-learning schools do better on state tests.

Long Branch Elementary will serve upper elementary students and add sixth grade, a setup Vitti says will recapture students.

But Paula Wright, Becki Couch and Connie Hall voted against the split. Wright said it’s too hard on families with multiple elementary-aged children.  

“There’s an expressway between those two schools,” she said. “Parents have to now go to two different schools. Many of the parents in that community do not have transportation. They don't own cars. This is personal for them. If a parent has to go and get a child from a school, they’re going to have to walk.”

Vitti says the district has made accommodations by reducing the minimum distance for bus pickup and allowing siblings attending different schools to ride the same bus.

Transportation costs and retrofitting will cost the district $230,000.  But the district is hoping that by recapturing some of the 213 students who opted out of traditional schools, the increased enrollment will bring in more funding.  

District staff presented this data at a community meeting in March.

Original story below:

The Duval County School Board will vote on a slate of program and boundary changes tonight, beginning at 6 p.m. at Duval Schools administration building on Jacksonville’s Southbank.

Follow WJCT reporter Lindsey Kilbride, who will report all the results live on Twitter @lindskilbride. 

Proposed changes include transforming Andrew Jackson High into a magnet school. Students could take vocational courses including sports medicine, game coding or information technology.

Richard L. Brown Elementary would become a magnet school for gifted students. And John Love and Long Branch elementaries would be split into a pre-kindergarten to second grade center, and a third grade through sixth grade school.   

All of those schools are currently low performing and have low enrollment numbers, with more parents opting for magnets, charters or homeschooling.

Tweets from Tuesday's meeting:

Duval Schools