Escambia County Schools Talk Books, Warrington in Triple Workshops
The Escambia County Public Schools The school board held a series of workshops last week in preparation for Tuesday’s monthly meeting.
Amid ongoing controversy over where to draw the line book restrictionsone school board member suggested giving the superintendent the power to veto book bans.
In addition, the board has begun to determine what the process for turn Warrington Middle into a charter school might look like.
While no official action was taken during those workshops, the discussions could shed light on what happens at the next regular board meeting on Tuesday.
Like the list of restricted books in Escambia County schools continues to grow – and the Bible being briefly removed from school shelves following content objections – District 1 Board Member Kevin Adams was adamant about developing a system for Superintendent Tim Smith to veto a book ban.
More than 100 books restricted in ECPS:More than 100 ‘questionable’ books placed in a restricted section while schools in Escambia examine them
Warrington Middle to go charter:Warrington Middle School gets a “D” grade; will close and reopen as a charter school
Adams expressed concern that people would seek to limit books just to make a statement.
He suggested that by writing in such a way that Smith would be vetoed, some books could be spared unnecessary quarantine.
An Escambia County teacher has expressed concern that she has read more than 100 books with “inappropriate” content, and now students must obtain parental consent to view the books until officials of the district can review their content.
Shortly after, the Bible was briefly removed from library shelves following a complaint that it contained accounts of sexism, sex, violence, genocide, slavery, rape and bestiality. . However, the district quickly retracted the action after learning of a state law allowing the Bible.
During the workshops, a handful of speakers took to the podium at the public forum for and against the removal of the books. Some even read passages from books currently unavailable to students.
District 3 School Board member Laura Edler spoke about the importance of reading the books in question without personal values or beliefs and giving them all an equal chance during their review.
Michelle White, media services coordinator for the district, acknowledged that much of the responsibility for the appeals process would fall on her and stressed the need for a consistent process.
While she said most other schools follow a system where books are left on general shelves until a book challenge is completed, some have followed suit by keeping them in quarantine until until a decision is made.
She said she thinks developing an “opt-in” system allowing parents to choose whether their student is able to read books in the restricted section of the library may be the best compromise. She noted that regardless of the system, it is important to act quickly as the list of disputed books continues to grow.
Warrington High School
While the school board is faced with redevelop Warrington Middle School as a charter school instead of closing the school entirely, the board has more questions than answers about the costs of renovating the school, transportation routes and the number of students the new school will be able to accommodate.
Warrington repeatedly earned “D” school grades over several years, leading to the state requiring it to be converted to a charter school.
The school board is working on a contract with Charter USA to run the school and has set a timeline in December to draft and approve a contract.
After a phone call with Charter USA broadcast during the workshops last week, the school board discussed the timing of the company’s arrival and its potential expenses.
However, representatives of the for-profit organization said they needed time to “get started on the ground” to assess the school’s needs and develop the plan.
There is the risk that the charter company will eventually decide to give up working on the school, deciding that it would not be worth it for the small number of students present.
Smith noted that this is the first charter school of its kind, and there will be lingering questions and unknowns that the district and state will need to work out together.
The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for a regular meeting. A link to this meeting is available online here.