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‘People want neighborhood schools:’ Community shares concerns at Duval County School Board meeting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Parents and teachers expressed concerns on Tuesday night about budget cuts that could eliminate hundreds of jobs and shut down schools in Duval County.

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A group of people created signs to protest the budget changes and the ripple effect it’s having on neighborhood schools -- from school consolidations to staffing cuts.

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Inside, more than 80 people took to the podium during public comment to share their disapproval of the impending changes.

“The people want neighborhood schools, and they want teachers to be paid well,” Felix Proia, a local school psychologist said.

The jobs of more than 700 school district employees are on the line and 30 schools are at risk of shutting down.

“One of my favorite teachers is at risk of getting cut,” a young student said during public comment.

Students, parents, and teachers took to the podium to share their concerns.

RELATED: Ahead of protest, DCPS moves to preserve Middle School schedules and save 69 positions

“If the money exists for charter schools, it exists for public schools, and that’s where it should go,” a Jacksonville resident said during public comment.

Taxpayers voted on the Half-Penny Sales Tax to improve schools -- and charter schools fall under that category.

DCPS is facing a funding gap of about $1.4 billion and board members said it’s due to inflation, decreasing enrollment, and new state laws.

“Our public schools are not failing, it is Tallahassee that is failing our public schools,” a Jacksonville woman said during public comment.

Parents and teachers advocating for their neighborhood schools believe the district and its consultants should consider school performance – especially since changes will affect people’s commutes.

“It is not a logical option for us to be sending our kids miles away when we have excellent neighborhood schools that support them and their community,” a local parent said during public comment.

Local teacher Monica Gold suggested the district “CHOP FROM THE TOP.”

“And we’re saying instead, they should be cutting higher up overpaid bureaucratic roles, freeing up funds so that the people that are actually doing the work day in and day out with our students get to keep their position,” Gold said.

Gold is proposing the creation of neighborhood school committees so that board members can learn about the value that each school offers from the people who attend it.

READ: Duval School Board narrows field to two finalists in search for next superintendent

“I would like to move forward in good faith that the school board members are on the side of the people,” Gold said. “And I think that we’ll figure that out based on their next steps.”

Board Chair Darryl Willie encourages everyone to keep the conversations going.

“I appreciate the public advocacy for our public schools,” Willie said.

Willie says they are still in the early phases of the plan.

There are seven community meetings coming up for parents and teachers to share their concerns. The first meeting is set to start later this month. You can find more information, here.

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