Students Must Move in Masses

Article excerpt

Thousands of Jacksonville students would have to change schools

over the next five years if a proposed desegregation agreement

is going to reach its goals, with the greatest turnover expected

in predominantly black schools, a Times-Union analysis shows.

Meeting the goals at 20 predominantly black elementary schools,

for example, would require that an estimated 4,600 white

students move to the schools while at least 2,500 black students

would have to leave, according to an analysis of enrollment

records and building capacities.

At 10 predominantly white schools, the impact would be far

less: About 620 black students would have to enter, while about

465 white students would have to move out.

The need for such a massive movement of students has led some

School Board members to question whether the school system can

reach the desegregation goals without involuntary busing.

It also raises questions about what would happen if not enough

children decide to leave their schools to make room for students

of the other race. The school system could be faced with either

failing to meet the goals or somehow forcing children to go to

other schools.

"I really don't think people realize the magnitude of the

community disruption that this could force upon the families,"

School Board member Stan Jordan said.

Jacksonville NAACP attorney Michael Sussman, however, said the

fact that students would need to move should not come as a

surprise in a desegregation agreement.

"This is a non-issue," Sussman said. "The thing about

desegregating a school system [is that] everybody can't stay in

the same schools."

School Board members this month approved the proposed

desegregation agreement, which was reached after three months of

court-ordered mediation with the NAACP. The civil-rights group's

general membership is expected to vote on the plan Monday.

The proposal continues to use racial-balancing goals and a

system of specialized magnet programs that were key parts of a

1990 desegregation agreement. In most cases, those goals call

for African-American students to make up between 20 and 55

percent of each school's enrollment.

A predominantly white school can have as many as 80 percent

white students and be considered desegregated. A predominantly

black school, at most, can have 55 percent AfricanAmerican

students.

While the goals don't change, the proposal would increase the

pressure on the board to meet them, something it has largely

failed to do since 1990. Among other things, the new plan

includes a year-by-year schedule of when schools are projected

to become racially balanced.

Superintendent Larry Zenke said the school system will try to

improve racial balances by beefing up the magnet programs, which

are designed to attract students from various parts of the city.

Also, Zenke said principals will be more active in recruiting

students to improve racial balances and in advising students

about the possibility of going to magnet programs at other

schools.

The Times-Union analysis looked at 30 elementary schools that

are among the most racially unbalanced in the county. …