Teachers anxious about controversial education law as new school year nears

(WSVN) - It’s August 1, and students may already be dreading three words: “back to school.” But for teachers, there is a far greater fear in the run up to another school year. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

The halls of Carol City Senior High School are empty. It’s summer – a time for teachers to relax. But these educators are on edge.

Nichole Dino, teacher: “Imagine someone asking you to teach at gunpoint. I mean, that’s dramatic, but that’s how it is. That’s the pressure. It’s like, ‘Okay, it’s now or never.'”

Nichole Dino and Alexandria Martin both teach english at Carol City. And they both graduated from the school…18 years ago.

Alexandria Martin, teacher: “1999!”

Nichole Dino, teacher: “It doesn’t seem that far!”

But, for the first time, they’re scared for their school’s future.

Alexandria Martin, teacher: “Closing the school would really close a legacy.”

For the last two years, Carol City’s school grade has been a “D.” And under House Bill 7069 — Florida’s new, controversial education law — any public school with three straight years of “D” or “F” grades could be closed down.

Alexandria Martin, teacher: “In essense, you feel as if you’ve failed as a teacher.”

A number of schools in South Florida are not making the grade.

In Miami-Dade County 5 schools have had three straight years of D’s or F’s. Broward also has five schools considered “persistently low-performing.”

Nichole Dino, teacher: “And what do you say to a community when you are beginning to dismantle its community school?”

If the schools don’t improve, the new law gives three options: reassign students to a new school, turn it into a district-run charter school, or close the school, allowing a privately-run charter school to open.

Brian Entin: “Is there a chance, though, that eventually these schools could be closed because of this new bill?”

Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Schools superintendent: “Absolutely not.”

Miami-Dade Schools superintendent says the district is determined to improve performance before it’s too late. They’re bringing in new principals in some cases and more support for teachers.

Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Schools superintendent: “My message to the teachers is concentrate on teaching kids come August 21st, the very first day of school. I have their back.”

But teachers say fixing the problem is especially difficult knowing there’s a deadline – and the clock is ticking.

Nichole Dino, teacher: “We’ve never been at a moment like this, where, okay, we are a “D” again. What’s going to happen to us as teachers? What is going to happen to my students?”

The earliest a failing school could close is at least a school year away. But district leaders say they are determined to turn things around and keep their schools open.

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