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Lake Forest Elementary School recommended for closure

Students currently enrolled in school to be placed in North Shore Elementary

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lake Forest Elementary School has been recommended for closure starting this fall, Duval County Public Schools told students' parents and guardians last week. 

As a result of Lake Forest likely closing at the end of the 2018-19 school year, students currently enrolled in the school will be placed in North Shore Elementary, according to a post on the school district's website. If students are eligible for transportation to North Shore, it will be provided at no cost, DCPS said.

"Lake Forest was being monitored under a 'differentiated accountability plan' after receiving failing grades. Therefore, with its recommended closure, students will be enrolled in North Shore Elementary, which has a C school grade. Students also will be provided with any Opportunity Scholarship options for which they may be eligible when school grades are released this summer," DCPS said in the online post.

An informational session was held for Lake Forest parents last week and the school district said additional resources will be made available to help families transition.

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Jennifer Howard, who lives across the street from the Lake Forest, told News4Jax on Tuesday that she got the notification in the mail and via robocall

"It basically said that they didn’t meet the standards -- the testing standards," Howard said. "I know, last year while my son attended, they barely made the grades, so they were pretty much on thin ice."

The recommendation to close Lake Forest is one of several moves from Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene to address underperforming schools in the district. Prior to the Lake Forest announcement, the district announced plans for Northwestern Middle School to close at the end of the 2019-20 year.

Northwestern serves about 700 students and board members from the Florida Department of Education are calling for drastic change. They said in 2016, Duval County had six D-rated schools and that number went up to 11 last year.

State board members said there’s only been one year since 2005 that Northwestern hasn’t been graded a D or F, calling it a historically underperforming school. 

Northwestern and Lake Forest were taken over by an external operator this school year. The schools must improve to a grade C or better this year in order to remain under the district’s control.

Greene announced at the state’s meeting in late May that she expected Northwestern to remain a D school, but for Lake Forest to improve to a grade C. But during a school board workshop Tuesday, the recommendation to close Lake Forest was briefly brought up. The district is predicting the school grade will improve from an F to a D, but a C is needed in order for it to be taken out of the “low performing” category. 

Lake Forest Elementary School's grade from last year and the prediction from this year
Lake Forest Elementary School's grade from last year and the prediction from this year

If a school does not improve after two years with the outside management company, the district’s last two options are to turn the school over to a charter school or close the school. Greene appeared to choose to close the schools over the charter option. 

“One of my chief goals as incoming superintendent was to address our D and F schools as we march toward becoming an A-rated district,” Greene said in the statement on the district's website. “Our recent decisions regarding Lake Forest and Northwestern are difficult, but we must do everything possible to ensure our students are in higher performing schools.”