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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Area schools preparing for the class bell to ring

PLANT CITY - Danielle Baker couldn't wait for the "official" day to return to her teaching job at Simmons Career Center. The fourth-year teacher arrived a week early to begin setting up her classroom, where she will teach reading and English. To say the least, she's eager to start the new year. "I'm really excited about it," said Baker, who will also head a school improvement committee. "I love teaching and engaging students. I'm really looking forward to it."
The 25 public schools in eastern Hillsborough County are expecting to welcome about 22,000 students when classes resume Tuesday after the summer break. Teachers reported back Monday. "Everybody is excited about the new school year," said Jerry Jackson, area leadership director for the school district. No new schools are opening in the Plant City area, but Marshall Middle School is expected to be brighter and cooler then ever. Over the summer, the district spent $4 million on better, more energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning for the school built in 1957. Marshall Principal Daphne Blanton and her staff worked out of offices at Tomlin Middle School while their campus was undergoing the much-needed renovations. Operating out of borrowed offices presented a bit of a challenge for tasks such as answering parent questions about bus routes, but the aggravation of leaving her campus was worth the wait, she said. "It's going to be wonderful," Blanton said. A downside is that "a lot of our teachers are very dedicated and get there early, and they haven't been able to do that." The work preparing for a new school year always starts during the summer, Jackson said. That includes training sessions for administrators, who work year-round, cleaning classrooms and other jobs that are tough to do during the school year. With the summer winding down, the custodians at Simmons have been busy getting the school ready before the opening bell rings. "We clean from the floors to the ceiling," head custodian Melissa Bretz said, showing off a classroom with a shiny, freshly waxed floor. "We work all through the summer to get ready."

dnicholson@tampatrib.com (813) 394-5103

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