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October 19, 2004

MacKay Jimeson
(850) 245-0413

Education Commissioner Winn Announces Increased Flexibility for Schools Devastated by Hurricanes
Commissioner grants waivers and allows Hurricane Grade Appeal for hardest hit schools

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John Winn today granted 200 hurricane- related waivers to aid school recovery in impacted districts and announced additional flexibility for the most significantly impacted districts. Districts demonstrating Florida's hurricanes directly attributed to a decrease in a school's grade may apply for a Hurricane School Grade Appeal during the normal school grades appeals process next summer.

"All Floridians have been forced to meet great challenges and make great sacrifices as a result of this year's tumultuous hurricane season," Commissioner Winn said. "It is necessary we maintain our successful focus on high standards and accountability in education, while being compassionate to those students in the most difficult situations. All Florida schools will be expected to demonstrate their commitment to student learning and ensuring every child receives the quality education they deserve."

Florida public schools will receive school grades this year under the regular criteria. Those severely impacted schools that can show hurricane related challenges resulted in a lower school grade can appeal through the Hurricane School Grade Appeal option. The Hurricane School Grade Appeal must be done on a school wide level — a school cannot appeal for specific students' removal from the grading process.

If any school is granted a Hurricane Appeal, the school may receive the same grade they received during the 2003-04 school year. Those schools granted a grade appeal are not eligible to participate in the School Recognition Program.

Commissioner Winn also announced that he had granted 200 of the 254 waivers, including extensions for annual financial reporting timelines, requested by 56 school districts, one university lab school and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. The Department of Education has worked with school districts providing them ways to modify school calendars, and granting waivers for the 180-day instructional requirement. School districts missing more than five days of school this year had half of the additional days waived, if requested. Schools missing more than five class days had to make up half of the days missed by adding school days, combining early release days or adding instructional minutes to the school day — meeting the 900 instructional hour requirement for 4-12 and 720 hour requirement for K-3.

In addition to waiving the school day requirement, the department has provided flexibility in the administration of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Those schools missing

more than 10 school days were eligible for a two-week delay in the administration of the FCAT. A one-week delay for the FCAT was granted to those districts missing six to 10 days. Of the 40 school districts and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind that were eligible for a delay, only 25 requests were received and nearly all those requests were granted.

Governor Jeb Bush has made education a priority as Florida's communities continue to return to a sense of normalcy. The Governor signed several Executive Orders beginning the waiver process. The Department of Education has worked closely with affected school districts seeking waivers and providing guidance to get the school year back on track.

For more information on the school waivers or Hurricane Grade appeals please see the attachments: