First Alert Weather Alert: Flood Warning expires at 10:04 PM on 4/24, issued at 10:04 PM Blackshear, GA | Bristol, GA | Mershon, GA | Millwood, GA

Duval County tackles school overcrowding

Set Text Size SmallSet Text Size MediumSet Text Size LargeSet Text Size X-Large
Updated: 9/30/2013 11:47 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Parents of students in Duval County public schools may receive a notice that their child's teacher will change in the coming weeks.

The notices are being issued by each school between now and Oct. 18 as part of the plan to reduce overcrowding.

In 2012, the district received a $7 million fine from the state for not meeting class size requirements, and being only 86 percent compliant.

Action News learned the state limits are as follows:
Kindergarten - 3rd grade - 18
4th - 8th grade - 22
9th - 12th grade - 25

"When you're in the mid 80's and you're the lowest in the state, something's wrong," said schools superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti.

Vitti said enrollment in the district increased by an additional 2000 students this year, something school leaders had "no idea" would happen. Vitti also added an additional elective for middle and high school students.

The result has been even more overcrowding for some courses, with parents reporting to Action News that as many as 60 students in a class.

The district is now hiring more teachers, and changing students schedules, and began sending notices to parents on Friday.

Frustrated parents are now concerned about the effect that changing teachers and courses will have on their children six weeks into the school year.

"I know parents want this done right away, but it takes time," said Vitti. "I wish I could snap my fingers and do it at the beginning of the year before the year started, but we didn't have the numbers."

Vitti told Action News he couldn't start the process of adding classes until the district was certain how many students were in each class. He also said the scores of basic skills test, or IOWA, were not returned until recently. He adds that there was no need to wait to add a new class because changes have to be made anyway.

"What we really tried to make a commitment to do is not make multiple changes, and try to do it all at once. It seems extreme, but we want to make sure students are with the right teachers and in the right curriculum. Nearly 50 percent of our students aren't reading at their grade level. We would have needed to make changes as a result of that test no matter what."

Vitti said district leaders didn't bother to meet class size requirements in past years, instead paying millions of dollars in state fines.

"Their analysis was it cost too money to do that and they didn't want to go through these logistical hoops to get to that point."

It's a process Vitti said he successfully carried two districts through in the past. His former district, Miami-Dade, now has a compliance score in the mid-90s.

"Most of the other districts in the state went through a similar transition about three years ago. Now it's time for Duval to start following the letter of the law. I believe smaller classes will be better for the student overall and parents will see that as this process moves along."

Vitti said the key to a smooth transition for students who are affected this year will be communication between established and new teachers, who will meet one-on-one with students. His goal is to be about 95 percent compliant, which he believes will make the process smoother in future years.

"Those strategies are being used to limit the angst that comes along with changing schedules, but at the end of the day this isn't entirely new, this is always what's happened. It's just this time it's happening at scale."

The Duval County school district will provide final class size compliance numbers to the state on Oct. 18. After that, the state will issue a compliance score, and assess a fine that will be taken out of next year's budget for each percentage under complete compliance.
0 Comment(s)
Comments: Show | Hide

Here are the most recent story comments.View All

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

No comments yet!
Inergize Digital This site is hosted and managed by Inergize Digital.
Mobile advertising for this site is available on Local Ad Buy.