Clay County Schools begin Wednesday; here are changes you can expect

Zoey Fields

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Clay County District Schools begin Wednesday, August 10. Schools accepted new policies, changes to previous academic year.Clay County District Schools

Clay County District Schools open Wednesday, August 10, for the 2022-2023 school year. The district has approved several new changes including curriculum, library media policies, active assailant security enhancements and resumption of charging for school lunches.

Florida House Bill 1557 was signed into law on March 28 by Gov. Ron DeSantis and will change the curriculum statewide for all school districts.

Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, the law is an act relating to parental rights in education requiring district school boards to adopt procedures to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”

Two academic concepts that are now banned from being taught in schools are Critical Race Theory and Social-Emotional Learning.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) suggests that social institutions are directly and indirectly laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules and procedures, according to Brookings.edu.

Social-emotional learning, often referenced SEL, is the teaching approach to help children develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships and make responsible and caring decisions.

“I am not sure how we got here and I really don’t know how any district is going to reconcile curriculum that doesn’t have SEL in it,” Clay County Education Association (CCEA) President Vicki Kidwell said. “How can you ask a kid to persevere or overcome a challenge if there is no way to explain it to them?”

Teachers expressed to Kidwell at the end of the 2021-2022 school year that they fear the ambiguity and wording of House Bill 1557 will cause more issues than solve them, she said.

School board members voted 5-0 during an August 4 meeting to adopt a new policy they say will reestablish parental rights in education regarding student welfare. See policy here.

In addition to the ambiguity surrounding curriculum, there has been confusion and outrage from both sides surrounding Clay County’s new library policy that allows parents to challenge books and, potentially, have them removed from library shelves.

According to the new media policy adopted during the recent board meeting, parents now have the right to submit a form including the title and page number of the content in question. The book will be immediately removed for all students until it has been reviewed by trained media specialists.

School board member Ashley Gilhousen says she has submited over 75 books for review that she finds questionable, according to an interview she did with Fox News. Gilhousen has not responded to inquiries from Newsbreak to identify her list of books.

  • Click here for a summary of the Aug. 4 school board meeting
  • Click here for the new library and media policies
  • Click here for a list of statewide 2022 statues

“We do not have a digitized list yet of all the books that have been challenged, but the books that have been challenged so far have been removed from circulation and will be undergoing the formal review process soon,” Clay County District Schools Communications and Media Coordinator Terri Dennis said.

Clay County Education Association blames the new requirements being placed on teachers and how children can be taught for the statewide staffing shortages.

Florida has more than 14,000 teacher vacancies, with Clay County District Schools currently having 28 instructional positions open, Dennis said.

Kidwell addressed the teacher vacancies and asked the board if there is any wonder why teachers do not want to work in Florida. Teachers feel that their best intentions for children are overlooked by people standing by and waiting to vilify them at the first chance, she said.

“We, as teachers, want to follow the law and if you have heard elsewhere that CCEA supports obscene materials, you have been misinformed,” she said. “As educators, we must be able to teach our kids, and the schools must avoid overreaction, unnecessary bureaucracy and cumbersome procedures that create a bottleneck on resources teachers need for kids.”

In addition to teaching vacancies, there are more than 1,900 bus driver vacancies in the state, with Clay County experiencing 10 unfilled positions.

“Every industry that has people driving somewhere is experiencing a shortage ever since the pandemic,” Superintendent David Broskie said during the August 4 board meeting.

Due to these shortages, parents can expect bus delays and, especially on the first day of school when everyone in the county is on the roads, Broskie said. To find your child’s bus route, and other transportation updates, click here.

Another new addition to the 2022-2023 school year is an individualized Family Reunification Plan for each Clay County school, outlining procedures and protocols in the case of an active shooter.

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook has worked alongside Broskie, Clay County Schools Police Department, Clay Fire and Rescue and emergency management to increase response training and create a policy around an active assailant in any of the county’s schools.

For more information regarding the new plans and different lockdown levels, click here.

Lastly, schools announced this month that the COVID-19 federal waiver allowing school lunches to be free has expired. Clay County District Schools said they will not be raising lunch prices and will continue to charge the same amount as they did during the 2019 school year, pre-pandemic.

Schools in low-income areas that operate as a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) are able to continue offering free breakfasts and lunches to students. All others wishing for free or reduced meal prices are required to fill out an application, found here.

Clay County District Schools currently has 42 schools welcoming students back on August 10. Next year there will be 43 with the new Spring Park Elementary opening.

The school will sit along County Road 315 and serve grades kindergarten through sixth. The building sits on 20 acres that will accommodate 862 students to relieve overcrowding happening at Lake Asbury and Paterson Elementary schools, Broskie said.

For additional updates and procedures within Clay County District Schools, visit ccds.myoneclay.net, or click here.

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL
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