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Hernando delays program for middle schoolers who have fallen behind

BROOKSVILLE — A program designed to help struggling Hernando County middle school students will not begin at the start of the school year as originally planned.

District spokesman Eric Williams said administrators have not had enough time since the School Board approved the concept to develop and implement a plan to provide effective services and support prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, which starts Aug. 18.

"In short, we needed more time," Williams said.

Discovery Academy would target students who have fallen two or more years behind in hopes that early identification and a more effective form of intervention might help reduce the district's dropout rate.

The academy, when it opens, is expected to target about 60 eighth-graders who are behind in their academics, according to district officials. The district has roughly 230 middle schoolers who have fallen between two and four years behind their peers.

The original plan was to house Discovery Academy at Central High School's ninth-grade center, which is mostly vacant, allowing students to be closer to their peers and experience high school life. That plan was scrapped because of cost concerns; district staffers said it would cost about $837,704.

At a workshop in late June, the district proposed a plan that would combine Discovery and Endeavor Academy, the district's alternative school for students with behavioral issues.

The district said it would cost roughly $1.35 million to house both programs at Central. Locating them at the current Endeavor location in Brooksville would cost about $1.46 million.

It cost $1.44 million to run Endeavor last school year.

Superintendent Lori Romano said pairing the programs was a better way to use limited resources and meet the needs of two different groups of students. Romano said the $1.44 million it costs to run a facility that serves 75-plus kids is expensive.

The plans for Discovery remain a little murky.

New Endeavor principal Latressa Jones said stakeholders are working to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing Discovery.

"The final decision on when it will start still hasn't been made, and the final decision on where it will be located, either temporarily or otherwise, still hasn't been made at this time," according to an e-mail from Williams.

Before the announcement of the delay was made, a group of Central High students had planned to attend Tuesday night's School Board meeting to express concerns about locating Endeavor at the school. Some students and parents have questioned whether moving students with behavioral problems onto the Central campus would be a wise move.

Contact Danny Valentine at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.

Hernando delays program for middle schoolers who have fallen behind 08/02/14 [Last modified: Saturday, August 2, 2014 8:13pm]
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