Welcome back to school! I’m guessing your household is as crazy as mine right now as our families settle back into the school year routine.
You may have heard that Alachua County Public Schools has been rated an ‘A’ district by the Florida Department of Education based on the academic achievement of our students. We’re one of just 24 in the state to earn the top grade, and I’m so proud of the students, teachers, staff, family members and everyone else who helped make it happen.
We’re also pleased that four of the six schools that earned ‘D’ grades last year raised their grades in 2018. That includes Terwilliger Elementary, which went up to a C (and was just 6 points from a B on a 700 point scale!) and Metcalfe Elementary, which boosted its grade to a B! Both schools were on Florida’s ‘turnaround’ list last year, but both got a lot of support from the state, the district and various community partners, including the ACCPTA. That support and the hard work at both schools certainly turned things around!
While we’re thrilled by the district’s ‘A’ grade, we can’t rest on our laurels. Maintaining an ‘A’ is very tough under the state’s grading system. Plus, we still have schools and students that aren’t reaching their full potential. We’ll continue to focus our efforts on raising the achievement of all students, particularly those who are struggling.
You may have seen signs cropping up in front of local schools with information about facilities projects. Thanks to the Half-Cent for Schools, work is already beginning on projects big and small throughout the district. We have a new Facilities Update website that will allow parents and the public to see what’s planned at every school and follow the progress of projects. That website address is https://bit.ly/2xzHi9p
Of course, safety and security will continue to be a priority for our district this year. We continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of students, staff and visitors to our schools. We will, of course, have resource officers at every school. Our staff have been trained in dealing with active threats on campus, and students will be undergoing training and drills throughout the year as required by Florida law. We continue to expand mental health services available to students and families, and this year all middle and high school students will have five hours of youth mental health training. That’s actually a new state requirement, and we’re collaborating with local mental health organizations on the best way to provide that training.
ACPS was one of the first districts in Florida to win a state grant to help ‘harden’ our schools—that is, to make the facilities safer from an intruder. Those funds will allow us to add to the features already in place in our schools, including cameras, fencing, automatic door locks, keypads, visitor screening software and other items.
The Half-Cent for Schools will also help us with school hardening. As we remodel, repair and redesign our campuses, we’ll be able to make many safety-related improvements, like limiting entry points.
As we begin the 2019-20 school year, I want to thank the ACCPTA and our PTA families for all their support for our students and schools during the last year. You make such a positive difference, and our district’s success is also your success.
My best to you and your family for a safe and productive school year!
Karen Clarke, Superintendent
Alachua County Public Schools