Sure, itís winter break. But itís never too early to begin planning for the next school year.
At its December meeting, the Pasco County School Board adopted the student calendar for 2018-19, to allow parents time to prepare.
Classes are scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 13, a week after teachers show up for planning. The state allows schools to resume on Aug. 10 or later, but district officials did not want to start the year on a Friday.
With a nod to the hurricane season, which in 2017 featured seven days away from school, the board set Nov. 19-20 ó the first two days of the planned Thanksgiving week off ó as makeup days, if needed.
After fielding heavy criticism for holding classes on Good Friday in 2017, and again in 2018, the board will return to its past practice of closing for that day (April 19) in 2019.
Other days off for students include Sept. 3 (Labor Day), Oct. 15 (teacher planning day), Dec. 24 - Jan. 7, 2019 (winter break), Jan. 21, 2019 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Feb. 18, 2019 (Presidentís Day), March 18-25, 2019 (spring break), and May 27, 2019 (Memorial Day).
The district continues its practice of remaining open for Veterans Day, and holding lessons and activities honoring veterans.
Classes are scheduled to end on May 29, 2019, with high school graduations taking place the week before.
CONSTRUCTION PLANNING: This past fall, the Pasco County school district opened a new west-side elementary school and east-side high school. It redrew attendance boundaries across the county, in hopes of easing crowding at several over-capacity campuses.
The effort had limited effect, with added incoming students filling some seats and more expected in the next few years.
Five of the districtís 14 high schools remain well above their built capacity, with two others hovering right at 100 percent full. Half of the countyís 16 middle schools are at or above capacity, as well.
The School Board recently held a workshop to discuss what to do about it.
The board already won approval this past summer for an increased impact fee. During that process, residents and builders alike acknowledged that even with the higher fee, the district likely would still come up short on revenue needed to pay for additional space.
So the question remains: How can the school system best leverage its resources to accommodate a rising enrollment. It already has a few projects in the works.
Those include: renovations with added seats at Land OíLakes High, Woodland Elementary and Zephyrhills High; a new middle school alongside the recently opened Cypress Creek High (2020 projected debut); and a new K-8 school in the Starkey Ranch subdivision (2021).
Officials also are looking into ideas such as renovating abandoned big box retail stores, like the Super Target store near the Suncoast Parkway. They also are contemplating more magnet programs in low-capacity schools, with hopes of luring more students interested in the academic offerings.
And theyíre looking closely at more classroom additions in "strategic locations," as theyíve already done at some campuses to alleviate congestion.
"We donít just want to have three things that we can do," deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said.
Facing new state restrictions on construction costs, district leaders suggested adding classroom wings might be a more efficient use of funds. As construction director John Petrashek noted in his presentation, the same funding that was spent at Cypress Creek High, (built for 2,000 students) would have housed 3,400 students in new wings.
When they build new structures, officials also are considering whether to make them larger than in the past.
Other ideas on the table include: partnering with other organizations for space, including charter schools; creating more K-8 schools; and building taller structures on smaller pieces of land.
PRINCIPALS: Midyear retirements mean that three Pasco County elementary schools will see new leadership in January.
Sarah Bordner, previously an assistant principal at Denham Oaks Elementary, will become principal for New River Elementary in Wesley Chapel. She replaces Lynn Pabst, who opened New River and had strong support of her staff.
The faculty at New River submitted a list of qualities it wanted to see in its next principal, and assistant superintendent David Scanga said Bordner met all of those, plus one not on the list. "She is an excellent baker of sweets," Scanga said.
Clara Craig, an assistant principal at Seven Springs Middle School, will move into the top spot at Gulfside Elementary. She takes the place of Jeanne Krapfl, who will transfer to Deer Park Elementary, where longtime principal Margie Polen is retiring. The School Board approved these moves. They take effect Jan. 22.
Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.