DCPS School Board votes to push elementary school merger back to 2025

On Tuesday night, the Duval County School Board decided to push back consolidating 2 magnet schools to next year: R.V. Daniel Elementary and R.L. Brown Gifted and Talented Academy.

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Board members made a unanimous vote to delay the consolidation until August 2025 instead of August 2024.

Board member Warren Jones proposed delaying the merger a year to help with community trust.

“It’s important that we maintain the trust and confidence of our constituents – our customers; and that they’re happy and that they’re being treated fairly with this process,” Jones said. “They may not like the process, but at least they’re given an opportunity to engage in a comprehensive, thoughtful manner so that their kids are well-served by this district.”

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The agenda item said the consolidation would help offset the low enrollment numbers in the district and the funding gap for the schools.

A Duval County Public Schools graph at the meeting showed a significant drop in enrollment for both schools since 2019. Both schools currently have under 200 students enrolled. During Tuesday’s meeting, we learned R.L. Brown is currently at 27% capacity and R.V. Daniels is at 37% capacity.

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There is a funding gap below 85% capacity, meaning the funding for the schools is lower than the cost. Data showed both schools are losing money, and they are at a funding deficit of at least $500,000.

“These numbers are astoundingly low,” Board member Dr. Kelly Coker said.

Tuesday’s vote was just the beginning of a conversation to merge other schools – as the district is exploring the Master Facility Plan. Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar said she has an outside consultant looking into this to help with the higher construction costs and the declining enrollment.

“I admit I was overwhelmed by the recommendation that came back,“ Dr. Kriznar said. “To see the number of schools that were recommended for consolidation was heartbreaking – both personally and professionally.”

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She, along with chairman Darryl Willie, emphasized that this was not a school board-approved plan.

“The proposal from the consultant was never intended to be a final plan. Instead, it was intended to be a starting point for conversation,” Kriznar said.

A handful of parents shared their disapproval at the meeting, blaming the state for extending private school vouchers to every student.

“This whole mess is a result of the expansion of the voucher program, and it is the result of private charters being allowed to use public funds,” one woman said during public comment.

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But, a few others say they stand with the board.

“Holding onto under-enrolled schools just doesn’t make sense. This is a simple business decision,” a man said during public comment.

After the consolidation, the newly renovated R.L. Brown campus will have a capacity of 725 students, but even after combining the students, the district would still need to work to get the numbers up to reach 50% capacity.

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