Private sector may soon take over Polk County turnaround schools

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Several Polk County schools have a few months to get passing grades or face an ultimatum from the state.

Currently six of the worst performing schools in Polk County are facing the tough choice.

Those schools include Bartow Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy and Lake Marion Creek Middle.

State education officials have given the Polk County school district three options for these schools: shut the schools down, turn them into a charter school or pay a private company to take over day to day operations until the schools get passing grades.

So far, school officials are leaning towards hiring a private company, but also vowed to make every attempt to get the required passing grades to avoid this from happening.

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“If that would happen he wouldn’t go to school here because I wouldn’t trust it,” parent James Chapman said.

Some school board members are refusing to support the plan of hiring a private contractor.

“I’m not going to vote to damage schools and to waste taxpayer money. I’m just not going to do it,” School Board Member Billy Townsend said.

Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said she would like the district to maintain control, but has to make a choice.

Byrd said she feels that hiring a private company is the best option, because the district could regain control of the schools once they reach passing scores.

“For the schools, it’s better flexibility. We will have our schools back, versus us closing, or moving them over to a charter school,” Byrd said.

School officials will vote on a plan in the next few weeks. However, school grades will not be released until June.

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