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Six Polk County schools who graded D or F could turn private if 2017-18 grades do not improve

Posted at 1:01 PM, Feb 08, 2018

The future of six Polk County schools hinge on the next few months.

Each of the schools listed below have been graded with D’s or F’s for the past three years.

If the trend continues, the school district says it will be forced to put a private operator in charge.

It basically all comes down to this Jun, when schools will get their grades for the 2017-18 school year.

If the schools, individually, make a C grade or higher, nothing will happen.

However, if their grade comes back low again, the school board has decided a private operator will take control.

This is just one of three options the board must make when a school continues down a bad grade trend for three years or more in a row.

Florida's 2017 school grades released

“I’m frustrated, I’m frustrated because I feel like my kids school is doing well,” Travis Thompson said it’s not for for his sixth grade son, who is excelling at Lake Alfred Polytech Academy.

Thompson says his son’s school is doing anything but failing.

We asked what kind of grades his son makes.

“My kid has all A’s maybe a B here and there,” Thompson said.

Thompson specifically placed his sixth grader in a school, he knew he rated low, because of the outstanding programs offered.

But according to this list, all of the schools have done poorly for three consecutive years.

- Bartow Middle

- Garner Elementary

- Kathleen Middle

- Lake Alfred Polytech Academy

- Lake Marion Creek Middle

“The staff is so engaged, the kids are so engaged, it’s heartbreaking to see them be drug through this,” Thompson said.

When this trend comes up, the state mandates the district to choose to either close the school and transfer students; close the school and reopen it as a charter school or hand it over to an external operator. 

“We are putting everything we can in there right now to make sure that the schools make it in June to a ‘C’ so they are not up underneath and external operator,” Jacqueline Byrd, the Polk County School Board Superintendent said.

The school says if it had a choice, they would not choose any of the options, especially because it will likely cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The superintendent estimates it could cost at least $300,000 per school, possibly more.

“I believe the state is forcing a decision that the district if left up to its own devices did not feel it needed to make,” Marianne Capoziello, with the Polk Education Association says she does not agree with a bill Governor Rick Scott signed last year.

In the bill, it forces school districts to choose from the above options when schools continue to fail.

Parents say a repercussion for the schools, and most importantly, the kids.

“To see this happen it’s like a gut punch, I don’t understand why this is happening,” Thompson said.

The Polk County superintendent says she is confident that the schools will grade a C or above come June, siting the staff and teachers have been working extremely hard to dig themselves out of a hole.