Sunday, September 23, 2018
Education

In a word, Hernando school leaders say, first day was 'smooth'

Over and over on Monday, school district leaders used the same word to describe the unfolding of the first day of school in Hernando County.

"Smooth."

District spokeswoman Karen Jordan said that even with slightly increased enrollment, which totaled nearly 24,000 this year, there were no major issues with transportation or traffic. Even at Suncoast Elementary, where some traffic built up due to the wrapping up of summer construction of a new student drop-off/pickup area, routing flowed well, she said.

Ralph Leath, director of transportation for the district, said while many buses ran late due to traffic buildup, general adjustment to new routes and local construction across the county, everything ran "fairly smooth for the most part."

"It was a pretty typical first-day transportation stuff," Leath said. "As we progress into the year, things will get better."

Superintendent Lori Romano and other district administrators toured a handful of schools and classrooms throughout the day, welcoming students and offering support to principals and teachers.

"We saw good instruction happening in classrooms; teachers have the supplies and resources they need," Romano said. "There was a very positive energy at every school site we visited."

At Westside Elementary, principal Kristina Stratton showed off the school's newly renovated cafeteria, a long-awaited project. As students ate lunch, kitchen manager Julie Vario stood back and watched from behind the new wooden and stainless steel food service line that now sits beneath large, white, balloon-shaped lights.

"We went from ghetto to glamorous this summer," Vario said, adding that the new setup will make lunchtime easier on cafeteria workers and students, who she says had a harder time reaching for foods on the old line.

Administrators walked Springstead High's freshly painted hallways during its busy lunch hour, navigating through students as they flocked to outdoor tables near the cafeteria.

Principal Carmine Rufa said despite some mishaps with about 50 students' schedules, the morning ran "smoothly." He took the group on a tour of the school's gymnasium, where new bleachers and new wood floors were installed this summer.

Athletic director Dustin Kupcik said the upgrades will make gym classes and the basketball program "a little bit more legit." Next week, the resurfacing of the school's outdoor track will be complete, too, he said.

In the band room at Springstead, Romano and her cabinet members watched teens practice brass instruments. During a classroom stop at Suncoast, fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Doban laid out for them her plans for the year. At J.D. Floyd Elementary, kindergarten teacher Kelly Barrett sang a song to teach students how to wash their hands and fielded questions about whether there would be a nap time.

"Not in kindergarten," Barrett said. "We left that in pre-K."

Principals across the district took to Twitter to document first-day happenings.

Spring Hill Elementary principal Michael Maine posted photos of a red carpet spread across the floor of the cafeteria along with the motto "You Matter: Every Student. Every Day." and the hashtag #NeverStopBelieving. The Title I school, with a high percentage of students from low-income families, rose from a B to an A state rating this year.

Lara Silva, the principal at Chocachatti Elementary, posted selfies with students accompanied by the hashtag #GameOn Hernando, the district's new slogan for the year. The assistant principal at Eastside Elementary, Mike Lastra, tweeted a photo of fifth-graders in a new lab and boasted about the high number of parents who visited campus for the first day of the school year.

Jordan said administrators will have visited all 22 schools in the district by the end of the week, and will continue to look for ways to better serve teachers, administrators and students. But so far, she said, "things across the district have started out pretty darn skippy well."

Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.

 
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