Public housing crackdown hits Pasco's Lacoochee Elementary School hard
Lacoochee Elementary School in rural northeastern Pasco County has its share of problems, not the least of which are poverty and perenially low performance on state tests.
A recent crackdown on undocumented immigrants in nearby public housing is adding to the school's woes.
The eviction of about 30 families right before state testing has meant the uprooting of nearly 70 children attending Lacoochee, which already is well below its capacity and shrinking.
Built for 579 students, Lacoochee sat at 391 children before the housing action. Originally projected to have 328 students, or 57 percent of its capacity, when classes resume next fall, the school now is expecting to be even smaller.
"We are now expecting 280 at school by the end of the year," superintendent Kurt Browning said. "We are looking at the options for Lacoochee Elementary School."
The campus serves as a focal point for the community, Browning said, so he has no desire or plan to shut it down. But he does want to find a way to revitalize the school and draw more children to it.
That might mean rethinking the school day, changing the resources and materials available in the school, or perhaps creating a magnet program in the school. Browning noted that many children speak Spanish at Lacoochee, and suggested that teaching at least part of each day in Spanish could be a possibility.
Two Lacoochee teachers recently urged the School Board to do more for the struggling school, such as adding more counselors and implementing a smaller student to teacher ratio.
"We need help," counselor Nancy Montoya told the board. "We need to be considered for the community model, more resources and trauma training. I see the kids crying. ... We need assistance desperately for these children."
The district recently chose Gulfside Elementary School in Holiday as the site for its first community school.