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PRESS RELEASE

September 21, 2004

Jacob DiPietre
(850) 488-5394 or
Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush and Education Commissioner Winn Announce Plan to Assist Schools Affected by Hurricanes
DOE will grant waivers, provide additional time for administration of FCAT for hardest hit districts

TALLAHASSEE — Governor Jeb Bush today announced public schools in counties most affected by Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Ivan will receive waivers from the Department of Education (DOE) on a variety of issues, including extensions on report deadlines, flexibility on required school days, and extra time for FCAT administration. He was joined by Education Commissioner John Winn, K12 Public Schools Chancellor Jim Warford, Florida Association of District Schools Superintendents (FADSS) Chief Executive Officer David Mosrie, and other officials.

"One month ago yesterday, I signed an executive order in the wake of Hurricane Charley, granting flexibility to school districts so we could open schools as quickly as possible and continue to make education a priority," said Governor Bush. "Today, in the wake of not only Charley, but Frances and Ivan, I am pleased to continue working to address the needs of school districts in these difficult days."

Governor Bush today signed Executive Order 04-216 (copy attached) with regard to Hurricane Ivan, similar to the orders signed after Hurricanes Charley and Frances, granting DOE authority to waive certain rules. DOE will allow affected school districts more time to administer the FCAT based on the number of school days missed. Districts that missed between one and five school days will administer the FCAT as originally scheduled (beginning February 28), those that missed between six and ten days will have one extra week for administration, and those that missed 11 or more days will have two additional weeks to give the test.

"The education community — teachers, students, administrators, and parents — have shown tremendous resolve in dealing with the disruption this hurricane season has brought," said Commissioner Winn. "We will continue to work together to restore a sense of normalcy by continuing to focus on student achievement."

As a result of these extensions, FCAT results will be provided on a rolling schedule, with first priority given to tabulating 3rd and 12th grade scores. This may result in a staggered release of school grades for some districts, therefore the July 1 deadline for students who are eligible for Opportunity Scholarships will be extended to accommodate the new schedule.

The 2004 hurricane season has taken a toll on schools, with every school district missing at least one day of classes as a result of preparation for or recovery from hurricanes this year. A list of school districts and number of days missed by each (so far) is attached.

At a meeting late last week, FADSS agreed school districts should have more time to administer the FCAT. The superintendents also agreed that additional time provided for FCAT should not deprive students of individual results before the end of the school year.

"We agree the FCAT should not be eliminated this year and appreciate the flexibility DOE has afforded school districts," said Dr. Mosrie. "This new timing allows flexibility for districts that need it, while still providing students, parents, and schools with FCAT results before the school year ends."

School boards across Florida are meeting to discuss make-up days. Some — including Orange, Volusia, Seminole, and St. Johns — have already found enough days in their calendar to make up many of the days lost due to hurricanes. On average, districts have as many as 27 days, including planning days, early release days, winter and spring breaks, available to consider as make up days.

Governor Bush announced today that districts should make up at least five days of instruction. Those districts that have missed more than five days can continue to apply for a waiver to reduce the 180-day requirement. Such requests, along with each district's plan to make up as many instructional days as possible, will be reviewed by DOE on a case by case basis. Legislative leaders praised DOE's decision to give school districts a seat at the table on its approach to missed school days and FCAT administration.

"We have experienced serious devastation and disruption in our state — yet we have witnessed the incredible resilience of Floridians," said Senate President Designate Tom Lee. "I am confident that parents, teachers and students will rise to the challenge and continue on the path of academic achievement."

"This policy reflects the shared goal of policy makers, educators, and parents in Florida — student-centered education," said incoming House Speaker Alan Bense. "It sends a clear message that even in times of crisis, student achievement continues to be our focus."

In addition to extending FCAT administration and waivers on minimum instructional days, DOE is working closely with school districts on various other waiver requests. For example, DOE has already responded to requests for waiver of a September 13 financial reporting deadline. DOE granted extensions up to September 30 to any county that experienced an emergency, including hurricanes. Such an extension accommodates reasonable requests by affected school districts, while allowing enough time to provide accurate school finance information to the Legislature.

For more information on the 2004 hurricane season's impact on schools and Florida's plan to get schools up and running, please visit www.fldoe.org.