DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – The Duval County School Board following months of work, discussed and voted on proposed boundary changes that will affect a dozen schools Tuesday night.
Five of the proposed boundary changes involving Ed White High School, Wolfson High, Fort Caroline Middle School, Hyde Park, Hyde Grove and Oak Hill elementary schools were passed in Tuesday night’s meeting.
In July, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti shared with the Duval County School Board, 19 recommendations for changes to school boundaries and programs to address lower performing schools and offer parents a stronger menu of educational options to attract and retain students back to traditional public schools.
These recommendations were later vetted through community working groups at each school, who were then tasked with holding meetings to listen to community stakeholders, voice opinions and consider alternatives.
"How I feel about it, or how you feel about, individually, even politically, is actually irrelevant," Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said. "Because at the end of the day, the parent is the active chooser today."
Vitti restated his case for boundary changes among a specific set of schools in the district.
Upon completion of this process, the working groups were asked to either accept, modify or reject the superintendent’s recommendations and provide alternative solutions to counter lower performance or declining enrollment.
“Although I may not always agree with the specific recommendations of the community, their input was invaluable and strengthened my final recommendations for these six schools,” said Dr. Vitti. “Clearly, we have communities and parents that want more than short term, surface-level reforms to the challenges that we have been facing for many years at these schools. I appreciate the Board’s commitment to transformation and innovation. Reform is not easy, and together we are beginning to meet the demands of parents and students for stronger programming and educational options. These changes will make us more competitive while empowering parents and students.”
Board Approved school boundary and program changes include:
• Oak Hill Elementary School
o Challenges: School has lost more than 310 students to charter schools, magnet schools, home education, and/or special transfer instead. Utilization approximately 61 percent. School has received an “F” for two years in a row and a “D” for the two years prior to that with a simulated “F” for 2015.
o Change: Full conversion to Autism Lab School
Rationale: Preserves school building as tax-payer real estate: enhances unique programming on the Westside while offering parents whose students have autism more options to meet their child’s individual needs especially those students who are at the severe or severe-moderate degree on the autistic spectrum.
• Fort Caroline Boundary Change o Challenge: School has lost more than 669 students in boundary to charter schools, magnet schools, home education, special transfer and other choice options. Utilization approximately 49 percent. School has earned two “D’s” and an “F” in past four years.
o Change: Convert Fort Caroline Middle to dedicated International Baccalaureate (IB) visual and performing arts magnet.
Rationale: Strengthens middle school program menu for parents and students districtwide and expands programming in Arlington area.
• Ed White High School Change o Challenge: School has lost more than 1,500 students in boundary to charter schools, magnet schools, home education, McKay and other options. Ranks lowest among all high schools for graduation rate.
o Change: Convert to a 9-12 military leadership magnet academy beginning with next year’s 9th grade class.
Rationale: Builds off support, momentum and enthusiasm for military leadership program at Stillwell. Leverages military presence in Jacksonville.
• Wolfson High School Boundary Change o Challenge: School has lost more than 1,200 students in the boundary to charter schools, magnet schools, home education, McKay and other options.
o Change: Convert to dedicated magnet school for Advanced International Studies and Leadership beginning with next year’s 9th grade class.
Rationale: Conversion will enable stronger recruitment of neighborhood students. Follows successful strategy used at Landon Middle School.
• Hyde Park/Hyde Grove o Challenge: Hyde Grove has lost more than 275 students in the boundary to charter schools, magnet schools, home education, special transfers and other options. Utilization approximately 66 percent. Hyde Park has lost more than 341 students in the boundary to other school options. Utilization is 71 percent. Hyde Park received an “F” in 2014 and a “D” for the year prior to that with a simulated “D” for 2015. Hyde Grove has received an “F” the past two years and a “D” the year prior to that with a simulated “F” for 2015.
o Change: Convert Hyde Grove to PreK-2. Convert Hyde Park to 3-6. Full transportation and extended day programs at both schools.
Rationale: Strategy focuses on early learning to ensure students are on grade level by 3rd grade, including PreK and Head Start programming. Streamlines district costs while offering more strategic investment for challenging situation and incorporates partners for arts integration and reading intervention.
The remaining school boundary and/or program recommendation will be presented to the board in mid-February.