Polk's failing schools taken from county's control

- It looks like a private company will end up running six schools in Polk County because they've been marked as failing.

Garner Elementary, Lake Alfred Polytech, Bartow Middle, Kathleen Middle, Griffen Elementary, and Lake Marion Creek Middle will now be out of the state education system.

After the schools were deemed as failures, the state gave the district three choices: Close the schools, convert them to charter schools, or hand over control to an outside operator.

"This is an unnecessary step imposed by the state of Florida," said Union Chief and spokesperson for the Polk Education Association, Marianne Capoziello.

Polk County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jacqueline Byrd says the schools are improving.

"They are moving forward," she commented during a media briefing Thursday.

But apparently, they are not making the advances that the Florida Department of Education is looking for. So Byrd hesitantly made the call to bring in an outside company.

The cost could run between $1.8-$6 million a year. Whatever the final figure, it is not in the budget.

Byrd has a company in mind but is not ready to make the name public. The contract would go into effect next fall.

This year's grades come out in June. If a school gets at least a "C" it would remain under the control of the district. If it achieves that grade in the future, it reverts back to the district.

School members are scheduled to vote on Byrd's recommendation later this month.

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