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Hernando County schools get off to a smooth start


Miss B. was right on time. At 8:25 a.m., the Hernando bus driver eased up in front of the Big Tree Mobile Home Park on U.S. 41 south of Brooksville. "Bus! Bus!" the students bound for Moton Elementary exclaimed as they sprinted to their ride. Among them was Brock Swisher, a 6-year-old first-grader.

Brock's mother, Barbara Womble, sighed as she watched her son bolt away. He apparently would continue a tradition started last year.

"That kid runs off without a kiss every day," Womble said.

Womble didn't get her kiss, but except for a minor school bus accident and some transportation glitches, Hernando school officials apparently got their wish for a relatively trouble-free first day Monday.

Assistant superintendent Sonya Jackson had the principals of the district's 22 schools e-mail her with reports. So far, so good, Jackson said Monday afternoon.

"Everything has gone extremely well," Jackson said. "Smooth opening — that's what I'm getting from every school."

Principals reported few student no-shows, Jackson said. As of Monday, 22,902 students were enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade. Of those, 21,352 showed up Monday.

When students go, so does state funding. The district, fearing the economy and an exodus of families could affect enrollment, set staffing levels based on a projection of 22,421.

Officials will have a firm student count by next week.

• • •

About 13,000 students rode buses Monday, said transportation director Linda Smith. A few students on a bus heading home from the Star Education Center got a scare in the afternoon.

A woman driving a green Suzuki rear-ended their bus at Elgin Boulevard and Freeport Drive in Spring Hill. The woman was taken by ambulance to Oak Hill Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said.

None of the three students on the bus were injured, Smith said.

A bus on the way to Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill broke down Monday morning, prompting a bus switch that caused students to arrive late, Smith said.

Otherwise, the transportation issues were manageable, Smith said.

"Typical first day afternoon," she said at about 4:30 p.m.

The afternoon is typically the trickiest part as staffers at schools take their time to make sure students get on the right bus. About 10 or 15 did not, prompting bus drivers to make trips back to schools, Smith said.

All eyes are on the student count at Nature Coast Technical High School this week since the School Board voted to allow admission to students on the magnet school's wait list.

That list officially had about 260 students, including 129 freshman, but a mass influx is not expected based on the number of students who took the district up on the offer last week, Jackson said.

As of Monday, just three ninth-graders, 18 sophomores, 12 juniors and four seniors from the wait list had registered at the school.

"I think it's probably because (the board's decision) was at the last minute and (students) have already got themselves situated at the other schools," Jackson said.

That's good news, considering Nature Coast had an enrollment of 1,536 on Monday. The school's permanent design capacity is 1,231 students, so officially, it's overcrowded.

Principal Toni-Ann Noyes said she plans to get creative to find classroom space and that the school probably won't need portables.

• • •

At 5 p.m., Miss B. the bus driver pulled up to Big Tree Mobile Home.

That's about a half-hour later than the scheduled time.

The bus didn't leave Moton until about 4 p.m., 40 minutes after dismissal time, said Barb Womble, Brock's mom.

Womble admits the parents waiting at the bus stop got a little impatient, but it was the first day, after all.

"We were all getting irritated, but it's kind of expected," she said.

As for that kiss, Womble said she'd get it.

"At bedtime."

Times staff writer Joel Anderson contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando County schools get off to a smooth start 08/24/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 24, 2009 8:25pm]
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