Duval School Board Approves Final Boundary Changes
The final proposed boundary change passed 4-3 in a special school board meeting Tuesday morning.
Smart Pope Livingston will become a PreK-2 school. Susie E Tolbert Elementary remains a grades 3-5 school.
Board members Becki Couch, Paula Wright and Connie Hall voted against the change.
Before the vote, Hall said she has felt not all board members are taking into account the impact these changes might have on communities that deal with more hardships than others.
“I’m a believer in change. I’m a believer in providing the best for all students and providing opportunities for all students across this district, so let’s not have that level one conversation,“ she said. "It’s how we go about the change is what has been mind-boggling for me.”
The more than 16 changes occurred in schools primarily in the north, west and Urban Core of Jacksonville.
Original article was first published May 3.
The Duval County School Board approved all but one of three proposed school boundary changes Tuesday. They’re part of a larger district reorganization plan to be implemented in the fall.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the changes will address the district's low-performing and underutilized schools, primarily in the north and west parts of Jacksonville.
Highlights from Tuesday's meeting:
R.V. Daniels Elementary
R.V. Daniels will become a dedicated gifted and talented magnet school. The Board voted, 4-3, in favor of the conversion. Board members Becki Couch, Paula Wright and Connie Hall voted against the boundary change.
Because the school will be a dedicated magnet next year, no students will be boundaried to go there. Students currently zoned for that school will now have to fill out a form and opt into the magnet.
Currently R.V. Daniels serves grades Pre-K through the second-grade. Those students will be rezoned to Smart Pope Livingston Elementary. Susie E. Tolbert Elementary, a grades 3-5 school, serves the area’s older students.
Students presently enrolled at Tolbert and Daniels will have priority to enroll at R.V. Daniels.
R.V. Daniels is five miles away from Richard L. Brown Elementary, a school the board voted to also convert into a gifted and talented magnet in April.
Vitti said people living in the district want gifted schools. The only other dedicated gifted school is Jacksonville Beach Elementary with a waitlist of about 400 students.
But Couch, who voted against the conversion, said the board doesn't address the root of the problem.
“It pains me to hear that from people in Jacksonville that think the only way their child can get a quality education is if they attend a dedicated magnet,” she said. “We’ve had no discussion of how we’re going to create that (magnet-like) atmosphere in our neighborhood schools.”
She said she understands why a parent would want to send their kids to magnets because Duval’s gifted students in neighborhood schools are bussed to another school for gifted class one day a week.
But Board member Scott Shine said if kids apply and aren’t able to get into magnet schools, their parents might send them to a charter school, private school or school in a neighboring county.
“The highest performing school district in the state of Florida is right next to us, St. Johns County, because those people have left this district because we haven’t provided them the educational experience that they want,” he said.
Meanwhile, education advocate Bradford Hall said using magnets to keep kids in district schools tells neighborhood students they’re not as good as magnet students.
A public hearing was held April 19. This data was available.
West Jacksonville Elementary
Beginning next school year, West Jacksonville Elementary will become a school for kids who are behind in grade level with the Bridge to Success overage program. The program provides students with structure and mentors to get them on track for graduation. The Board voted 6-1 for the conversion.
The program will be moved from the James Weldon Johnson Academic and Career Training Center, with the understanding Edward Waters College will lease the Johnson Academic Center for classroom space.
President of EWC, Nat Glover, spoke to the board at Tuesday’s meeting. He said he hopes to form a partnership with the school district to teach or tutor some of it’s students. He said the college’s education classes focus on “urban school teaching.”
Glover also assured the school board EWC would not use the building for a charter school after a few board members said they heard rumors of his plan at an earlier boundary-change workshop.
District data show West Jacksonville Elementary, an F school, is 42 percent utilized and 104 students zoned for West Jacksonville left at the end of the 2014-15 school year to attend magnet, charter or other schools.
Vitti said he could foresee the state closing West Jacksonville due to multiple failing grades.
K-2 students currently zoned for West Jacksonville will be rezoned to Smart Pope Livingston Elementary and students in grades 3-5 will go to Susie E. Tolbert Elementary.
A community group has been discussing these changes in workshops since October. In December, the group recommended a technology magnet program and leadership academy for West Jacksonville Elementary. One group member recommended the school have a program for students who are behind in grade level, which Vitti accepted.
Vitti said Tuesday he didn’t accept the recommendation for the school to be a technology magnet because he doesn't think that focus will recruit enough students.
Transportation costs associated with this boundary change will be about $208,440 and the addition of a playground and Stem lab will amount to about $150,000. District data estimates those costs will be offset by the money received from EWC leasing the Johnson building.
A public hearing was held on April 19. This data was available.
Smart Pope Livingston and Susie E. Tolbert elementary schools
The board voted to defer an item that would have converted Smart Pope Livingston Elementary into a PreK-2 school.
Prior to last night’s vote, PreK-2 students in the area went to R.V. Daniels Elementary. With its switch to a magnet, the plan is to convert S.P. Livingston into the new early-learning school. West Jacksonville students will also be split between the schools.
With Tuesday’s deferment, S.P. Livingston remains a full K-5 school. Susie E. Tolbert already serves the area’s older students, grades 3-5. The bill also included that in the 2017-18 school year, sixth grade will be added to Tolbert.
Board member Paula Wright voted in favor of deferring the bill. She presentated to the board the routes students would have to walk with these new boundaries if they lived too close for bus pick-up. She was concerned about railroad tracks near the schools.
“I’m asking that we back up a little to give ourselves as a board and superintendent an opportunity to look at the type of danger we might be putting some of our students in,” she said.
Vitti said his staff has already reviewed the routes and doesn’t think more information will be gathered before the board votes.
The board will take up the item at a special meeting later this month.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with more detail about the boundary changes.