New bell schedules. Longer periods. More busing.
Hernando County students and their parents will notice a number of important changes when they begin the 2014-15 school year on Aug. 18.
The change that affects almost everyone: school start and end times. Across the county, almost all schools will have substantial changes.
Most middle schools will have their start and end times pushed back by an hour and 40 minutes, going from a start time of 7:30 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. All four of the district's middle schools will end at 4:10 p.m.
Elementary schools will start 40 minutes earlier, with the first bell ringing at 8:35 a.m. The district's high schools and K-8 schools will get minor changes, with the earliest high schools moving up 10 minutes to 7:05 a.m.
The Hernando County School Board's decision to adjust bell times was a cost-saving measure, expected to net about $600,000. That money will be used to partially restore some of the busing eliminated in recent years.
For the past three years, the district has had a 2-mile nontransportation zone in place.
In May, board members voted 3-2 to bring back busing for students who live between 1 and 2 miles from the county's nine elementary schools. Busing, however, will not be restored for elementary school-age students attending the district's K-8 schools.
The restoration of so-called courtesy busing was one of the most contentious issues during the past school year.
Another controversial issue: the move to six-period instructional days at the district's middle and high schools.
This spring, superintendent Lori Romano announced that those schools would move to six periods in an effort to increase the amount of instructional time in core classes. Some schools, though not all, previously had offered more periods.
Citing the district's C grade at the time, Romano said, "District staff knew they needed to do something to increase instructional time."
Some in the district and the community, including School Board member John Sweeney, have been skeptical of the change.
District officials say the change will provide more uniformity among schools and increase instructional time in the classroom, and could save money. However, six-period days will reduce the number of electives students can take and could provide fewer opportunities to take credit-recovery classes during school hours.
Other changes of note:
• In July, Westside Elementary School's leaky roof received a temporary patch-up. District officials say the $73,000 fix essentially buys the distinct an extra year to draw up replacement plans for the roof and air-handling system at Spring Hill's oldest school.
• The Brooksville Engineering, Science & Technology Academy, a south Brooksville charter school beginning its second year, will add eighth grade. The school, which opened with only sixth and seventh grades, will expand its enrollment from 88 to near its full capacity of 132 students.
• In May, School Board members approved a plan to outsource substitute teaching services to Kelly Educational Staffing, meaning Kelly will take over recruiting, screening and training for substitutes. Because of a new requirement to provide health care benefits to part-time workers, the district estimated it would have cost $717,000 for the year to maintain previous substitute practices. The estimated cost for Kelly is $465,500, representing a savings of about $252,000.
• Central High School will no longer offer band, chorus or agriculture programs. Band and chorus students were given the opportunity to transfer to a high school offering those programs.
Contact Danny Valentine at email@example.com or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.