VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Officials with Volusia County Public Schools are changing up the daily routines of students in an effort to keep them on track, in line and out of trouble.
The district has reported more incidents at its schools since returning to in-person learning. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has seen a rise in calls concerning teenagers.
On Tuesday, the school board met and discussed changes that will be made to its middle schools next year.
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“We’re seeing an uptick in a lot of social-emotional needs for our students,” Assistant Superintendent for Middle Schools Patricia Corr said.
The district is taking action to get results. Starting next school year, all middle schools will transition to so-called teacher teams.
“An [English-Language Arts,] a math, a science, and a social studies teacher will all share the same 125 students,” she said.
With each groups’ classrooms next to each other, transition time between classes will be shorter.
“It will reduce the ability for some students to get into something they possibly should not,” Corr said.
The district said it’s seen an increase in fights, acting out in class, threats, and property damage this year.
The problem isn’t just at school. Sheriff Mike Chitwood said his deputies have been dealing with more teens recently.
Just within the first week of 2022, four teens were arrested in separate violent crimes.
“Volusia county leads the 7th judicial circuit in the number of children with gun charges on them that are in the Department of Juvenile Justice system,” he said.
Chitwood is calling the Department of Juvenile Justice to change its system. He said right now, children committing crimes are released too soon without getting help or aren’t punished in a way to prevent future crimes.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say holy cow what we’re doing isn’t working. If they’re doing violent crimes at 12,13,14, and 15, what’re they going to be doing at 18,19, and 21? The system [is] an entire joke,” he said.
Chitwood said the new secretary of the DJJ is reworking that evaluation system for children.
Chitwood is also pressuring the county council to fund a juvenile assessment center.
“Any juvenile that comes in contact with law enforcement, that’s the first place they will go, where they will be assessed head to toe by the social service providers to get them immediately into a program that they need,” he said.