Superintendent tosses out plan to cut class period at Polk County high schools

Schedule change would have saved nearly $7 million

BARTOW, Fla. - The cost-cutting plan to eliminate a single class period at Polk County high schools is now off the table.

After hearing a large amount of criticism about the idea, the superintendent decided to toss it out. Several parents came to Tuesday's board meeting ready to put up a fight.

They found out the proposal had been dropped before they arrived.

"We all decided to wear black today, but we don't need to do that anymore," one parent got up and told the board.

If the board would have eliminated a period, classes would have been longer, but students would have remained at school the same amount of time.

The real concern for parents is that students would not have any wiggle room.

"There's no room for failure," said Terri Presnell, a concerned parent. "They had to pass every single course in able to graduate."

Some of the parents came with thousands of signatures they collected to show that they were not alone.

Lisa Oliver wore a t-shirt to the meeting that said "six does not equal seven," in reference to the debate.

"I am very happy, and I think I am most happy because so many people rallied together from so many different schools to make a difference for this."

While they left feeling victorious in their fight, the budget battle for Polk County Schools is far from over.

Right now, the shortfall sits around $18 million, in part due to pay raises approved for teachers last fall.

Tuesday, the board approved a variety of cuts ranging from eliminating bus routes, to cutting a class period at some middle schools.

Superintendent Doctor John Stewart says personnel is the most likely next target for cuts, but the union president is not so sure.

"We certainly believe that any conversation that is using the word layoff or furlough is certainly premature in our mind," said Marianne Capoziello, President of the Polk Education Association.

She believes a large number of personnel cuts can be accomplished through attrition.

It's unclear how many teachers or school workers will be impacted. It largely depends on how much funding the school gets from the legislature.

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