Volusia schools see increase in students acting out, bigger learning gap

District leaders are making changes in their schools to address behavior and learning issues

DELAND, Fla. – School districts in Central Florida are reporting an increase in behavior and learning issues in their students since returning to the classrooms. The districts say the year and a half at home in virtual school put many students behind and kept them from interacting to improve social skills.

“We saw amazing things on video when we were doing Volusia Live at home and I can tell you not only did they suffer emotionally but they have suffered academically. Our kids are far behind,” said Volusia Public Schools Superintendent Scott Fritz.

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The district’s leaders addressed the issue at a special meeting Wednesday night called by the mayor of Debary.

“Have the incidents increased since we’ve been back in school? They definitely have,” said Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Rose Roland.

Those incidents they say range from fights, to acting out in class, to threats and property damage. Roland added they found many students were home alone with little guidance and instruction during the time they were in virtual school.

“So, they’ve been out of school for a year and a half, two years without any full really structure to keep them on pace, to help them remember their manners and to be respectful,” she said.

Fritz said change is needed.

He said starting next year they are adding a second school counselor to elementary schools with more than 600 students. They are also removing lockers and changing to teacher teams in middle schools.

“It’s team of four that will have a group of students, they will have a common planning period, they will be right next to each other, so transition times in the hallway will be less. There will be less stimulus to get in trouble,” he said.

Data shows statewide all grades had a 4% to 10% drop in passing FSA scores from 2019 to 2021.

“A lot of this starts at home, so we are partnering with parents and communities to try and deal with our new reality,” said Volusia School Board member Ruben Colon.

Volusia isn’t alone in facing these issues.

Reports of violence and bad behavior have come from several counties in the last few days.

Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties all have reported threats against schools in the last two weeks.

The Brevard Public Schools spokesperson said their district has seen an increase in reports of students acting out, lack of respect for staff and damage to property. Brevard has added staff to assist teachers and counselors.

In Volusia, Colon said they’re also now tapping into federal funding to catch students up.

“We’ve been able to apply more one-on-one tutoring programs to try to help close that achievement gap,” he said.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.