The first two days of school in Flagler County went smoothly despite the usual early bus delays and other transportation difficulties, Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore said.
“We continue to work through some issues with transportation as we do every year, just making sure that students are on the right buses, that we have the routes running within the assigned times,” she said.
Some students were not showing up as bus riders in the system, Moore said, but the transportation department resolved the problem. She said she received three emails on the third day of school. All were thank you emails for resolving issues.
There have been late changes to bus routes, and drivers and students have been getting acclimated to their routes, Moore said.
“It's always slower for elementary students, making sure that those students are getting off at their correct stop, making sure they're getting on the correct bus,” she said.
Flagler Schools continues to roll out its ID system in which students’ ID cards are scanned as they get on the bus, so parents can follow the bus' progress.
Moore said that one problem that was not anticipated was a misunderstanding about transportation for students with special needs.
“I don't know where this came from, but I've gotten several emails from families stating that we're not wanting specialized transportation, which is absolutely false.” Moore said. “And so for those families that are reaching out, we're calling each of them individually and by the end of the conversation, they have a greater understanding of all the different options that we provide, and we're making sure that they are satisfied, and we're meeting the needs of their students.”
ADJUSTING TO NEW LAWS
Moore said the district’s total enrollment is 13,651, not including Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten. That’s about 200 more students than last year, she said.
She visited every school in the district on Aug. 10, the first day of school.
Our students and staff all appear very happy to be back on campus.”
— LASHAKIA MOORE
“Our students and staff all appear very happy to be back on campus,” she said.
Like other districts, Flagler is adjusting to new state laws and dealing with staffing shortages. The district’s greatest need right now is paraprofessionals, Moore said. There were also 12 teacher vacancies as of Aug. 14.
“We’re adding additional staff members each day in different positions,” Moore said.
Many districts around the state have been asking parents to fill out consent forms that allow teachers to call a child by a preferred nickname. Flagler Schools will likely do the same, Moore said.
“I do think it's something that we will address, full scale,” Moore said. “One of the things that I continue to say is that this year, we're resetting the table. We're making sure that everybody's on the same page. So, we are currently reviewing that procedure as well as several other policies that were impacted by legislation changes this year.”
House Bill 1069, which went into effect on July 1, extends the prohibition of classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity through eighth grade. It also prevents schools from requiring any student or staff member to be addressed by a pronoun that doesn’t correspond with the person’s biological sex.
If students want to change their pronoun from the one that corresponds to their birth sex, Moore said, a specialized plan involving the student’s parents would be written.
Recently, the district announced that Flagler Palm Coast High School will not offer the Advanced Placement Psychology course this year. The Florida Department of Education backtracked on its objection to a unit in the College Board’s course that deals with gender and sexual orientation,
But Moore said the district's decision was made when the DOE’s verdict was still uncertain. The three dozen FPC students enrolled in the AP course have been shifted to the International Baccalaureate psychology course. Matanzas High School does not offer AP Psychology. Students there take the Cambridge AICE psychology class.
“I’m confident that the decision we made still affords our students all the opportunities that AP does," Moore said. "We were given many opportunities to change and go back to AP Psychology, but we've made a decision to stay with IB psychology. We have a great support system in place for the teachers that teach that course. It’s a course that has been taught there for a number of years.”
Moore is in her 17th year with Flagler Schools. She was sworn in as interim superintendent on June 30. She said her transition from assistant superintendent has been smooth.
“The good thing is that people know who I am. They know my expectations. They know how I lead,” she said. “Now, I just have an opportunity to lead on a greater scale. I think I have been the same person in every position that I've held. And so, that's what they anticipate. They know that I love what we get to do for this community, but they also know that I expect it to be done and done well. And I take seriously the impact that we have on our students and on this community.”