School begins today in Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee
It's back to school in Pinellas County as parents and students head to the first day of classes at Shore Acres Elementary School. JAY CONNER/STAFF
Published: August 18, 2013
Updated: August 19, 2013 at 10:04 AM
Today is the first day of school for students in Pasco County, where there are several changes at elementaries, and in Pinellas County, where many students will need to pay more attention to what they wear. Hillsborough students return on Tuesday, but buses are on the road Monday. Students also head to class in Polk and Manatee counties, while Hillsborough County students begin on Tuesday. In Pasco, Superintendent Kurt Browning told district employees in a video that an administrative transformation at district headquarters is complete and the district staff is ready to provide support to schools. And there are changes at several Pasco elementary schools.
*Lacoochee Elementary embarks on a state-required turnaround program, designed to improve student performance that has earned a D three years in a row. Principal Latoya Jordan is new to the school, as are about half the members of the teaching staff. *Quail Hollow Elementary in Wesley Chapel and Shady Hills Elementary have been closed for renovations. Quail Hollow students were rezoned for Wesley Chapel Elementary or Watergrass Elementary. Shady Hill students will attend Crews Lake Middle, which has been turned into a K-8 school. *Most of Schrader Elementary in New Port Richey is being replaced by an $11.5 million facility. Students and staff remain on campus, though, using portable classrooms and a 16-classroom addition that was built in 2003. Meanwhile, the Pasco school board has decided to ignore state class-size requirements this year, figuring that the state fine would be less than the cost of hiring more teachers. Hopefully this will help the budget. That means the number of students per teacher for core academic subjects could exceed the numbers mandated in the state constitution. In Pinellas, dress code policies will take effect at some schools while others will be cracking down on dress code enforcement. Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg and High Point Elementary School in Clearwater will join 11 others in the county with strict uniform or “modified dress code” policies. Some high schools will be monitoring everything from the logos on students’ clothing to the fabric from which it’s made. At Lakewood High, students will be allowed to wear either jeans or khakis, shorts that extend below the knees and Lakewood club, sports, or “school spirit” shirts. Students can also wear solid color polos, as long as the logos aren’t bigger than a quarter and the shirts aren’t red, a color often associated with gangs, said Principal Bob Vicari. High Point Elementary will require boys to wear navy blue or khaki pants or shorts and plain navy blue, yellow or white polo shirts without logos. Girls can also wear skirts or shorts. School T-shirts will be OK for everyone. The school district has set a standard dress code that prohibits students from wearing clothes that expose undergarments, including bra straps, or body parts in an “indecent or vulgar manner.” Shorts, skirts and dresses must reach midthigh or longer, and clothing cannot portray violent, profane or sexually-suggestive images or phrases. Schools can further restrict what their students can wear. At Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, the new dress code prohibits rips, holes, cuts, images, writing or embellishments, and any logos must be smaller than a quarter. Northeast High School in St. Petersburg will also prohibit holes or rips of any kind in clothing items and require all shorts, pants and skirts to be no more than 3 inches above the knee. At Tarpon Springs High, no manufacturer logos can be larger than a 3-by-5-inch index card, and students can’t wear any see-through clothing or low-cut tops. Students can only unbutton the top buttons on polo or dress shirts. Athletic shorts won’t be allowed; and dresses, skirts and shorts must go at least to the knee caps. No bottoms can have any images or writing on them, unless they are from the school. Be sure to check with your school for advice on what to wear. In Polk, classes begin under a new superintendent, Kathryn LeRoy, who will have four regional superintendents assigned to work closer with principals, regularly visit schools and provide support for their areas campuses. In Manatee, a probe involving a former Manatee High football coach has led to upheaval in the district’s upper levels as well as in the school’s front office. Three days earlier, assistant principals at three schools and an assistant superintendent were charged with failing to report suspected child abuse or giving false information to law enforcement in relation to an investigation into a district employee. They were also placed on administrative leave, as was a district attorney. Six staff members at Manatee High, including a parent liaison, school resources officers, and two secretaries were removed from the school. The moves come amid the investigation into former Manatee High assistant coach Rod Frazier, who is charged with misdemeanor battery involving females students and staff. Frazier has denied the charges but resigned in July. It’s a difficult period in the district, where 17 schools had D or F grades, and five schools face longer days because they are among the lowest performing in the state on reading scores, according to the Bradenton Herald. Hillsborough students don’t return until Tuesday, but commuters will need to watch for 1,100 school buses on Monday as bus drivers are out on practice runs. The buses will be making all of their scheduled stops in the morning and afternoon, so watch for the lights and warning arms. Students and parents at Hillsborough schools can expect tightened security as they head back to class, with controlled access about to be the norm at all 215 district schools. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said Friday that 85 percent of schools now have a single campus entry point, and modifications will be completed at all schools in the six to eight weeks. The school board called for the increased security measures in the wake of a series of school shootings, including the December killing of 20 students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The upgrade will cost about $1.6 million. Students and parents will be seeing more gates and security cameras. Meantime, the district also unveiled new children’s cafeteria trays that could help them plan and recognized balanced diets. The color-coded trays indicate where students can place items from the fruit, vegetable, dairy, grain and protein groups to build a healthier lunch.