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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jul. 9, 2019 10 months ago

Middle schoolers to get new uniform color options

Also: District hopes to add more social workers.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

If you’re the parent of a Flagler Schools student who’s moving from elementary school to middle school this coming year, don’t toss out their uniform polo shirts just yet: They’ll be able to wear them in middle school, thanks to a change in the district’s code of conduct for the upcoming year.

In previous years, middle school students had the option of wearing districtwide-approved colors — black, white or gray — plus one of their middle school’s official school colors. But this year, they’ll have the option to wear polos in the school colors of any of the district’s elementary schools, too.

“There was a request made because it kind of creates a hardship on our elementary families ... because currently, when an elementary student transfers to the middle school, they have to buy all new shirts,” John Fanelli, the district’s coordinator of student supports and behavior, told School Board members at the July 9 board workshop. “It does create a bit of a financial hardship.”

“I’m not opposed to that,” board member Colleen Conklin said.

Fanelli said he’s spoken to the middle school principals, and they approve of the proposed change.

Conklin asked if the district should simply allow any solid color polo shirt.

Allowing the districtwide colors, the middle school colors, plus the elementary school colors means a lot of color options: blue, green, pink, burgundy, black, white, gray and red.

But School Board attorney Kristy Gavin said that one of the reasons the uniform policy had been implemented was to make intruders more obvious, because they’d be dressed differently from everyone else. Allowing any color at all, she said, would make it easier for an outsider to blend in.

“Any solid color could be ... a bucketload of colors,” Gavin said.

The board decided to limit the options to the elementary and middle school colors and the districtwide colors.

Other changes are also coming to the code of conduct this year: It will explicitly prohibit electronic nicotine dispensing systems and will state that anything a student brings on campus that locks — like a vehicle or a lunch box — must be opened if staff demands it.

Also, leggings will be added to the list of pant styles that are not acceptable under the district’s dress code. Currently, the code bars athletic-stye pants like mesh shorts, spandex pants and sweatpants.

DSC policy change will increase district’s costs

It will now cost Flagler Schools more money when the district’s students take dual enrollment classes at Daytona State College. In previous years, DSC had reimbursed the school district 33% of students’ enrollment costs. But starting this year, the college will only reimburse 12%.

“We were not, obviously, happy with that,” Flagler School Superintendent James Tager told School Board members during the board workshop July 9. “We have more dual enrollment students at DSC than any of the schools south of us.”

But the district didn’t have a say in the matter, he said. “We were pretty much told that was happening. ... So our best option is to look for other schools, and we’re going to do that,” he said.

Often, Tager said, when community colleges begin to offer four-year degrees — as DSC does — they stop reimbursing school districts for high school students’ enrollment costs.

Meanwhile, he said, the University of North Florida is allowing students to take dual enrollment classes in its teaching academy at no cost.

The district estimates that the financial impact of the DSC policy change will be about $60,000: Normally, the district sees about $90,000 to $95,000 in reimbursement form DSC, but this year, that is expected to drop to about $30,000.

In other changes to the dual enrollment program, students will no longer be able to take cosmetology and barbering classes as dual enrollment classes because those subjects have been removed from the state eligibility list.

School district hopes to add more mental health professionals

Flagler Schools hopes to increase the number of social workers working for the school district from two to four this coming school year.

The current two social workers each aided approximately 350 families last year, Fanelli told School Board members at the board workshop.

The school district has been seeking to increase students’ access to mental health professionals in recent years, and last year created a new mental health service plan that involved placing a mental health professional in every school. The concern is fueled by high suicide rates in Flagler County, which consistently has the highest or one of the highest per-capita rates of suicide of any county in the state.

The district will also be renewing its memorandum of understanding with Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare this year.

Board member Colleen Conklin asked if SMA will, this year, have an on-site location in Flagler where students in crisis can be assessed.

“If a student is Baker Acted in Flagler County, at one of our schools by one of our deputies, will they be taken to Stewart-Marchman and assessed and then taken to Halifax? Or will they be taken straight to Halifax?” she asked. “Because this whole experience can be extremely traumatic.”

Fanelli said that if a student is brought to local SMA staff under a Baker Act by law enforcement, the local staff don’t have the legal authority to lift the Baker Act: The student would have to be taken to Halifax for assessment.

However, if a student is brought in without a formal Baker Act — for instance, by a family member — and is not violent, SMA staff would potentially be able to assist the student without taking them to Halifax Health.

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