DCPS continues school closure discussions, DeSantis stands behind push amid declining enrollments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County School Board members held a two-hour-long discussion Tuesday on the prospect of closing 30 traditional public schools in the district.


Members of the public and local leaders came out in support of saving their local schools.

“To take the only school, in this case, Atlantic Beach Elementary, out of Atlantic Beach would be to just rip the heart out of the City of Atlantic Beach,” said Atlantic Beach Mayor Curtis Ford.

DCPS statistics show enrollment in traditional public schools has dropped by nearly ten percent since 2017.

Meanwhile, enrollment grew by roughly 90 percent over that same time frame in alternative options like home, virtual, and charter schools, as well as in private schools through the use of state-funded scholarships.

The declining enrollment is part of what is driving the district to consider shuttering 30 traditional public schools and consolidating them with other nearby schools.

Increased construction costs have also contributed to a $1.4 billion budget shortfall in the district’s master facility plan.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed off on a universal school choice law last year, which allows any parent to receive a private school scholarship.

As school board members met to discuss consolidation we asked DeSantis, who was holding a press conference on the other side of town, about the situation facing Duval schools and what he believes the future holds for traditional public schools.

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He noted this year’s state budget includes record funding for public schools, and argued that increased competition makes all schools perform better.

“Ultimately, we want parents to be the ones that are driving this by being able to choose the school that’s best for them, and I think what you’ve seen in many parts of the state is these school districts have had to respond by offering programs that the parents want,” said DeSantis.

But Andrew Spar with the Florida Education Association argued the problems facing Duval and other districts aren’t an unintended consequence of the push towards school choice.

“There’s a clear motive here and the clear motive is, make it really hard for public schools to exist, make it really easy for private schools that accept vouchers and charter schools to exist with zero accountability,” said Spar.

During the school board meeting, it was announced there would be a series of public meetings in May and June on the potential closures.

A timeline for closures will be developed in July and a final vote on the updated five-year plan is expected in September or October.

A district spokesperson emphasized that no new school closures are anticipated for next school year.

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