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Raines consolidation off the table. Now what for Northwestern Middle?

Some concerned the struggling school might close

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many parents are pleased after the superintendent announced that plans to merge Raines High and Northwestern Middle schools are off the table, but some are concerned what that could mean for the future of Northwestern, as it's considered a struggling school.

Dr. Diana Greene, the Duval County school superintendent, said during a community meeting on Thursday night that turning Raines into a 6-12 was no longer being considered because of issues at Northwestern that are too severe to put on hold. She said those issues can’t wait until after a referendum.

Raines has been a high school in Northwest Jacksonville since 1965. Many in the community, including Earl Kitchings, the president of the Raines National Alumni Association, are happy with the news. He and many others in recent weeks have spoken out to the district, asking them to reconsider the plan to consolidate the schools, saying it was a bad idea to mix sixth graders with 12th graders.

“We don’t know of schools around the state who have six to 12s in their school districts, so without that, we didn’t have any information to go by to see the success of them,” Kitchings said.

The original plan called for Northwestern Middle to be consolidated into Raines. Northwestern would have become an elementary school, consolidating Carver, Woodson and Payne Elementary schools.

Northwestern is considered a struggling school and was taken over by outside management after it failed to receive a grade of C or better for three years in a row.

Kitchings said he now has concerns about those middle school students.

“For those of us who attended Northwestern and understand Northwestern is on life-support, what now happens to those six through eighth graders?” Kitchings asked.

Even though middle school grades will no longer be added, Kitchings said he hopes Raines will still receive its needed improvements. He encourages the people of Jacksonville and the City Council to support a half-cent sales tax. He said it’s not just for Raines, but all Jacksonville public schools.

“Let’s fix all of this,” Kitchings said. “I believe citizens need to understand that without (the) tax the quality of life does not improve. It’s simple."

Kitchings said he encourages the school board to continue involving the community in the process as much as possible.

Raines High School is in District 5 and School Board Member Warren Jones told News4Jax he is also pleased by Greene's announcement. He said the consultants’ recommendation didn’t fit well for that particular community.

The superintendent met with the school advisory council and alumni association and Jones said she listened.

Northwestern Middle School is not in Jones’ district, but in the neighboring District 4. He said Northwestern is still a challenge and that Dr. Greene has to make some tough decisions with what happens going forward with the school.

If the school doesn’t make a grade of C or better in 2019, the district will only have two options: turn the school into a charter or close it. 

The superintendent is scheduled to meet with the Florida Department of Education on May 22 to discuss what’s next for Northwestern Middle School.