Evergreen Elementary closes in Ocala due to low performance, staffing issues

About 200 students will be attending a different school next semester

OCALA, Fla. – Some members of the Marion County School Board said it was a difficult decision to close Evergreen Elementary School.

In a vote of 3-2, board members decided to close the school due to low performance and staffing issues. The decision was made during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Wednesday, was an emotional day for Cara Dawkins and her kids on the last day of school at Evergreen Elementary. Her daughter ending her first year of Kindergarten.

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“These people put a lot of effort and energy trying to keep the school open,” Dawkins said.

About 200 students, including Dawkins kids, will be attending a different school next semester.

Evergreen Elementary has been under external operations for years after receiving failing grades for five consecutive years. The Florida Department of Education requiring the school to either close or be converted into a charter school.

“Over the years we would have a strong leadership team and they would bring the school to a C or higher, then the leadership team would dissolve and go to other schools to help them. I think that was a big contributing factor,” MCPS Board Chair Nancy Thrower said. “Then reputation begins to make a difference. I think it got to the point where a lot of families were hesitant to send their kids to Evergreen because of the unsureness of what each year was going to bring.”

Thrower said even if the school would have made a C or higher this year, they wouldn’t have enough teachers to serve its students. The district said only four teachers expressed interest in continuing to teach the following year and will be reassigned to different schools.

“I consider it a massive disappointment and also an opportunity because in the end, as long as we’re on this earth we have to move forward,” Thrower said.

Some parents like Dawkins said Evergreen Elementary just needed more time.

“They were always very hands-on. I think if they would’ve given it another year, it would’ve been OK,” Dawkins said.

The school district is contacting each parent to assign their kids to a school that best fits their needs.

“Each student would need to be served by an effective or highly effective teacher as well as in a school that doesn’t have a recent history of being in turnaround status,” Thrower said.

The district will provide transportation to get the students to their new schools.

As for Evergreen Elementary, the district will have to decide how they will utilize this building moving forward.

Oakcrest Elementary is also being monitored by the state education department. Due to low performance, it will have one more year to make an improvement under an external operator or it may face the same fate as Evergreen Elementary.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.