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Palm Coast Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021 5 days ago

In the 'zone': Which students should go where?

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A planned grade shift will require the school district to rethink boundaries.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler Schools' middle schools will gain a grade — and elementary schools will lose one — if the district moves forward with plans to shift sixth graders from elementary to middle schools in the 2022-2023 school year. 

Moving the sixth graders will raise the district's overall student capacity and add space in overburdened elementary schools, but also put more pressure on middle school campuses, requiring the district to rezone all of the schools.

The district's current grade level arrangement groups children together in elementary schools from kindergarten to sixth grade, then groups seventh- and eighth-graders for middle school, and ninth- through 12th-graders for high school. 

Elementary and high school's are over capacity, while middle schools have limited space.

Planned residential construction in Palm Coast will bring more students that would further strain already pressured schools unless the district undertakes a "rebalancing," school district Coordinator of Planning and Intergovernmental Relations Patricia Bott told School Board members in an April 6 board workshop.

As part of that rebalancing, Bott said, the district will move 352 student stations from Wadsworth Elementary to Buddy Taylor Middle School. The two schools share a campus. 

"We're just utilizing the building differently," Bott said. 

If space reservations for developers continue at the current rate, Bott said, the district will have over 1,250 reserved stations by the end of 2021, putting middle schools over capacity at 108%, and high schools over capacity at 111%.

Since October 9, the district has increased by 482 students, Bott said.

At the high school level, Bott said, Matanzas High School is less crowded than Flagler Palm Coast High School, and will need some kind of addition. 

The middle schools may also require expansion, she added. 

She presented the board with a proposed timeline leading up to a 2022-2023 rezoning. 

"What I want is to get as much feedback as I can between now and our board meeting on the 20th," Bott said. 

The board has not yet formally voted to switch to a K-5 elementary and sixth- through eighth-grade middle school model, but School Board members have signaled their willingness to move forward with the proposal during previous workshops after considering — but on district staff's advice, ultimately rejecting — the possibility of instead shifting to a K-8 model.

If the board approves the grade shift, Bott said, district staff will make sure the rezoning process doesn't divide neighborhoods. 

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct an incorrect statement about current grade level divisions.
 

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