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Adult ed classes at Hernando K-8 school raise concerns

SPRING HILL — Mary Cooper says she is all for adults continuing their education.

But should they be taking classes on an elementary and middle school campus?

Cooper says no.

"I'm not comfortable with that," Cooper told the Times on Tuesday morning. "We have to worry about teachers nowadays. We shouldn't have to worry about these people, too."

When Cooper dropped off her two sons on Monday morning at J.D. Floyd K-8 in Spring Hill, she saw a sign directing adult education enrollees to the media center. She saw several adults who didn't appear to be supervised, she said.

Cooper grew concerned. After trying to get answers from the front office, she called the district office and eventually spoke with superintendent Bryan Blavatt. She found out that Floyd is the district's newest adult education site.

Cooper questioned why parents weren't notified about the new program. She said one of the women asking for directions to class was showing too much cleavage for a school site.

Blavatt said Tuesday that Cooper and other parents have nothing to fear.

The adult students are escorted to the school's media center each day to undergo standard security screening, handing over a driver's license or identification card to check for sexual predator or offender status, Blavatt said. The screening happens in the media center because there are no Floyd students there at the time, he said.

From there, a staffer escorts the adult education students in small groups to vacant portable classrooms at the back of the campus. After classes, the students are escorted back to the school parking lot.

"We had made preparations for this," Blavatt said. "There is never a period of time where those people are not being supervised. We took real painstaking steps to make sure there would be little, if any, contact with (Floyd) students."

Blavatt said he didn't feel compelled to notify Floyd parents because the district is taking the appropriate precautions with adult students, just as it does with dozens of volunteers who come onto campuses every day.

As of Tuesday, Cooper was the only parent to express concern, Blavatt said.

The program marks the first time the district has offered adult education courses on a school campus during the day.

Until now, the district offered the courses in three places, all in or near Brooksville: the district's HEART Literacy center and Grace World Outreach Church on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Nature Coast Technical High School on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The classes at Floyd will run 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, offering a Spring Hill option for people who can't take night classes, said Denise Moen, the district's adult literacy coordinator.

The adult enrollment at Floyd hovered near 120 by Tuesday, and will probably grow, Moen said.

Last year, the district served about 900 adult students, and 259 earned a General Educational Development diploma. Some of the adult enrollees are parents of Hernando students, and studies show that children benefit when parents bolster their own education, Moen said.

Moen, who also serves as the district's volunteer coordinator, said she is well-versed in ensuring that adults who come onto school grounds are properly screened.

"Safety is top on my list," Moen said. "We can provide literacy services and have a safe campus at the same time."

As for Cooper's concerns about attire, Moen said adult ed students must follow a dress code and staffers will not hesitate to confront someone who is not following the guidelines.

Cooper said she is considering pulling her second- and seventh-grader from Floyd.

"I have nothing against this program, but not with my kids on an elementary school campus," she said. "I don't feel safe."

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarerro@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Adult ed classes at Hernando K-8 school raise concerns 08/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 8:28pm]
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