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
"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
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
The Times-Union analysis looked at 30 elementary schools that
are among the most racially unbalanced in the county. …