BY OLIVIA GIL
With thousands of students reported as “missing” in Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), the Broward Teachers Union (BTU) canvassed neighborhoods on September 25, hoping to find their students.
This door-to-door outreach approach has been named the “Ready for You! ReEngagement campaign.” It brought together educators from across Broward County, including CCHS’ own Principal Vera Perkovic and 12th grade vice principal, Carla Hozebin. In conjunction with other members of BTU, they were able to reach families at their homes and find out why their students were not attending school.
Many BTU members found that these students had not been attending school due to a transition to online school, via Florida Virtual School (FLVS) or even moving out of the country, while still registered at BCPS.
“I understand that there is a lower enrollment across Broward County Public Schools, due to the fact that many students were online last year and may not be attending face to face instruction [this year],” Hozebin said. “I went with Ms. Perkovic to students’ homes to try to either update their records, make sure that they were enrolled in school and attending and/or get them to be enrolled at Broward County Public Schools with much success.”
Though this approach brought many students back to school, BCPS staff may not see the extent of their efforts until the end of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) week, which ran October 11-15. FTE week determines the state funding that schools will receive based on student attendance reports turned into the Florida Department of Education and, in turn, the Florida Education Finance Program.
Without this funding, public schools across the county could face a series of cutbacks, reflecting those seen at nearby schools. Cooper City Elementary School (CCES), for example, was forced to downsize its science and media programs due to lower enrollment. These two decisions led some parents and teachers to believe it will negatively affect students in the future.
“I was just really disappointed when I got the call and the email about them cutting the science special. It’s one of my kids’ favorite things to come home and tell me about, especially as a science teacher,” Marine Science teacher and father of two CCES students Jason Scarlatelli said. “It’s disappointing because I’m afraid [that] especially at that age…we should be getting kids into science, and into the curiosity side of academics.”
CCES has not cut their science program entirely, as it is still taught in the classroom. Much like their media program, which has also been removed as a special, according to Scarlatelli.
Some teachers at CCHS are concerned how lower enrollment and subsequent cutbacks could affect their students, many of whom rely on academics and electives to increase interest in future careers.
“Now, with cutbacks and staffing issues, we’re going to lose the interest that we provided, that the school has provided to them over the years,” English 4 teacher Shauna Mogan said. “That’s where these kinds of things are crucial to the development of kids … it’s going to be very detrimental to them, really, in the long run.”
Many students discover interests at school and in the classroom on topics they may only realize could be a career path after their experiences on campus.
“That’s what’s hurtful about it, because we can teach them all that we can in the classroom, but it’s this, plus the additives of other things, that kids can experience while at school that’s being taken away,” Mogan said.
This is an issue which has yet to be seen just a mile away at Pioneer Middle School (PMS), where many CCES students make their transition from primary into secondary learning.
“To my knowledge, we have not experienced cutbacks at Pioneer,” PMS eighth grade science teacher Kathleen Mogan said. “That could change over time.”
Though this is an uncertainty that many Broward County public schools now face, the likelihood of it affecting PMS, as well as CCHS, appears to be low.
“As far as I know, our student enrollment does not appear to be down regarding the number of students, with an average at about 25 per class size,” Kathleen Mogan said. “Some classes are seeing higher numbers, such as language arts and some extra-curricular classes … but [it] looks like the school is attempting to make adjustments.”
CCHS is seeing similar statistics, with only an 11-student decrease from the 2020-2021 school year to the 2021-2022 school year, according to CCHS’s information management specialist Chiquita Black.
As the number of unenrolled students matches the new student registration almost exactly, CCHS may not see any changes by the end of FTE week at all.