JACKSONVILLE, Fla – The Duval County School Board was presented at its workshop Tuesday morning with 20 scenarios involving nearly 100 schools as part of its master schools plan to replace, model and consolidate the district's aging schools. The scenarios presented were the ones that received the most negative feedback following recent community meetings.
Two high schools in Northwest Jacksonville are proposed to be replaced with sixth through 12th grade schools. But people who live in that area say the two high schools hold the community together and the history behind them needs to stay.
"We don’t want to see our legacies and traditions torn down as they’ve been torn down with schools in the past," said Earl Kitchings, president of the Raines National Alumni Association.
One possible scenario is Raines High School, which is more than 60 years old, being replaced with a new 6-12 school. As part of that scenario, students from Northwestern Middle School would also attend Raines and the Northwestern Middle building would become an elementary school, consolidating Carver, Woodson and Payne elementary schools.
"There’s no model in this district to show that a 6-12 model works, so why are these two school becoming the experimental schools to see if that plan will work?" Kitchings questioned.
Nearby Ribault High School, which is 54 years old, is also proposed to be replaced with a 6-12 school.
At Tuesday's workshop, the school board was presented with the 20 scenarios that received significant feedback and/or negative comments from online surveys that people took in recent weeks following community meetings that were held in each of the seven school board members' subdistricts.
Each of the 20 scenarios includes anywhere between two and six schools from various subdistricts and involves replacements, consolidations or both.
Just because a school is not involved in one of those 20 scenarios doesn't mean it won't be affected, as there are many other scenarios that didn’t receive as much negative feedback or comments, and all schools will see safety and security upgrades, as well as removal of portable classrooms. Some individual schools could also be replaced, with no consolidating.
According to Duval County Public Schools, about 2,700 people opened the online survey and there were nearly 1,700 comments. The scenario involving Raines High scenario was one that received 140 comments, which was on the high end, while many other scenarios received less than 10. Tameka Gains Holly, with Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools, said she and many others feel there's been a disconnect between the school district and the community so far throughout the process. She said many in the community wish that the school district had reached out for feedback before presenting plans to each district at the recent community meetings.
"Our community, we want to be heard. We want to be represented in a conversation," she said. "We want the city to be involved in the conversation because once the schools are no longer there and they're not being used as educational institutions, they become a gap in our communities."
One of the next steps for the school district is figuring out where the funding will come from for the nearly $2 billion project. Looking into millage rate and sales tax increases will likely be topics of conversation at some point for the school board.
In areas, including the one with Raines and Ribault high schools, where there was a lot of negative feedback, the school district is planning on having more community meetings, but said they will be different from recent ones.
Below are the scenarios where the school district recommended further engagement and dialog:
- J. Allen Axson and Chets Creek elementary schools
- Venetia and Ortega elementary schools
- Ribault High School and Ribault Middle School
- Raines High School and Northwestern Middle School
- Jefferson Davis Middle School
Dates have not yet been set, but those meetings are expected to take place next month.
The school district has already made some changes to the master plan based on the recent round of surveys:
- The school district will preserve the historic architecture of Kirby-Smith Middle School and Loretto Elementary School in the replacement process.
- The school district will meet the need for a middle school in fast-developing southeastern Duval County by making the proposed new K-5 into a K-8.