Myra Terwilliger Elementary School will face the possibility of closure if it doesn’t receive a C or higher letter grade for the 2018-19 school year, after receiving a D for the past three years.
There are three options if the school does not receive a passing grade: close the school, convert it to a charter school or contract an outside operator to run it, according to Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson.
Alachua County Public Schools intends on the latter. The closure and charter school options are not possible because current students would need to be relocated. Contracting an outside operator leaves the door open so that if the school achieves a passing grade next summer the contract can be canceled and the school will remain open.
“Closing the school is just not a viable option,” Johnson said. “We’re already over-crowded in that area especially at the elementary school level.”
There will be a town hall meeting on Tuesday evening to inform parents and discuss the future of the elementary school, which serves 670 students from pre-K to fifth-grade. It will also be open for the public to give input of what additional support they would like to see implemented to help improve the school’s grade.
The Florida Department of Education determines the grade based on seven components including state assessments and learning gains across English language arts, mathematics and science.
Terwilliger was one of six schools in Alachua County to receive a failing grade. Hawthorne Middle/High School faced the same issue last year but remains open after receiving a C for the 2017-18 school year.
Scores on the Florida Standards Assessment play a large role in the school’s grade. The formula used to calculate the grade, which weighs low scores more than high scores, can be challenging for some schools especially those with students that come from poverty, said Johnson.
The school board has been providing additional resources to help the school reach a passing grade such as coaching, staff training and developmental resources. As well as an extra hour dedicated to improving language arts skills, said Johnson.
More than just academics, the school is working to improve the students social and emotional skills. According to Johnson, many of the students come from poverty or come into school unprepared for kindergarten. This has a big effect on academic performance. By helping students and their families it will in turn help their academics and the school’s grade.
“It’s just not a matter of academics,” said Johnson. “It’s providing services to the students and their families.”