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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Gainesville City Commission opposes selective admissions at P.K. Yonge

Commissioners advocated for maintaining diversity at public high school

<p>P.K. Yonge pictured on Saturday, April 20, 2024.</p>

P.K. Yonge pictured on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

The Gainesville City Commission passed a resolution Thursday condemning a proposal to implement a selective high school admissions process at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School. 

The resolution, proposed by Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, was written in response to UF PK-12 Vice President Penny Schwinn’s proposal at a March 8 UF Board of Trustees meeting to switch the school’s admissions process.

Schwinn said it was a necessary measure to propel the school to a ranking reflective of UF’s academic status.

“We need to be in the top 10, period. No question,” she said at the meeting. 

P.K. Yonge, which is run by UF, currently ranks 38 out of 1130 public Florida high schools, Schwinn said. Its admissions process is currently a lottery system designed to reflect Florida’s population diversity, allowing research conducted by the school to remain relevant to the entire state, according to the commission’s resolution. 

The selective admission process suggested by Schwinn would require the school to prioritize stricter academic criteria and offer enrollment based on student achievement and performance. The switch would shift enrollment demographics and curb research opportunities, according to the resolution.  

“There really isn’t a pathway at this point to have the admissions process that we’ve had to date without moving into a selective model because every school essentially above us has a selective model,” Schwinn said.

She also outlined two other options in her proposal including an improved version of the current structure and a dual high school program but said these routes are not as effective or feasible.

The City Commission recommended in the resolution that “high school admissions be left as they are,” citing several concerns voiced by members of the P.K. Yonge community.

“Supporters are concerned that selective admission would get rid of the community diversity,” the resolution read. 

P.K. Yonge parents are “vehemently opposed” to a selective admissions process because it would eliminate the diverse learning experience they want for their children, according to the resolution. Parents believe “there are more potential harms than benefits” of Schwinn’s plan.

Only two out of the 37 Florida high schools ranked above P.K. Yonge are non-selective, raising the school to number three, which the resolution said is “something to be extremely proud of.”

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To allow P.K. Yonge to continue “taking diverse students and families and building communities with shared values,” the city commission will petition UF President Ben Sasse and the Board of Trustees to refrain from interfering with its current admission process.

Schwinn is expected to provide an update at the UF Board of Trustees meeting June 13, but it is unclear whether it will address the proposed changes to P.K. Yonge.  

Contact Grace McClung at gmcclung@alligator.org. Follow her on X @gracenmcclung.

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Grace McClung

Grace McClung is a third-year journalism major and the graduate & professional school reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, Grace can be found running, going to the beach and writing poetry.


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