BROOKSVILLE — For parents who always thought their child was quite a bit above average, it's a good time to be in Hernando County.
On July 15 and 16, the school district will be offering a free screening for children whose parents believe they're qualified to attend the county's first gifted education center.
The Quest Academy for Gifted Education, slated to open in August at the new Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill, was projected to enroll around 383 eligible students in grades K-8.
Fewer than half that number had signed up at the beginning of June, with some families expressing frustration over the district's decision to move all gifted services to a single location.
But around 27 additional families have since signed up, and the number is growing with each passing week, said principal Dominick Ferello.
The free screening — along with an effort to contact the families of some 400 Hernando children who earned a perfect score on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — is designed to further boost enrollment at the center and ensure that all who qualify have a chance to attend, he said.
"If the parent just has a gut feeling their kid is unique, they should call and make an appointment to do this," Ferello said.
There is a catch, though. Admission to the gifted center is restricted to students who meet the state's definition of "gifted."
Typically that means scoring at least two standard deviations above the mean score on an IQ test, and qualifying in at least one category on a state checklist. Students from low-income or minority groups can also qualify with a lower IQ score if they meet other criteria for giftedness.
Ferello said parents who aren't sure if their children meet that criteria should watch for signs of unusual talent, such as a sophisticated vocabulary, a deep interest in numbers, or any interests that are "far beyond the child's years."
Some of those signs are counter-intuitive, he added. Some gifted children are very social and like to be among older kids, while others are bookish or prefer computers to play dates.
One gifted child might be the type "who finishes work quickly, might be a perfectionist," Ferello said. "Or the opposite extreme, a kid who is bored, doesn't see the point."
Gifted or not, any parents who are interested in the free screening can take part, as long as their child has not been screened previously for giftedness, he said. The initial screening is by appointment only and takes around 45 minutes. Children who show signs of giftedness will receive additional testing.
To make an appointment, call Lisa LaBelle at the Exceptional Student Education office, (352) 797-7022.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.