Saturday, December 16, 2017
Education

J.D. Floyd K-8 School in Hernando to keep its middle grades

SPRING HILL — The middle school grades at J.D. Floyd K-8 School will be staying put for the foreseeable future.

No grades will be eliminated, and the school's thematic program won't be absorbed by another school.

But that wasn't always so clear-cut. In fact, it was downright confusing.

Before school started this year, at least a dozen parents pulled their children from the school, acting on fears that the sixth, seventh and eighth grades would be phased out and the environmental center would be moved to Winding Waters K-8 before their children graduated.

Those were misguided fears, superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.

"We had to call a lot of parents and let them know the (environmental sciences) program will be there," Blavatt said. "If people have questions, they ought to contact the school district and not go by rumors."

Most of the students who moved from Floyd came back after they were assured they would be able to attend the school through the eighth grade.

The confusion caused at least one School Board member to pause.

"As a school district, we need to do a better job of communicating with the public," said Vice Chairman Matt Foreman.

But parents weren't the only ones who didn't know exactly what was happening with the school.

At the same time Blavatt said no changes would occur, Floyd's administration was still under the impression the school's middle school grades were set to be phased out.

First-year principal Rick Markford said the school was set to become purely an elementary school by the 2015-16 school year, though it was unclear exactly how this would happen.

The only thing that seemed certain, he said recently, was that current sixth-graders would be able to graduate at Floyd. As for younger grades, their future was still in question.

That no longer appears to be the case.

Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president Joe Vitalo also said teachers have been concerned.

"They know that they will be working there this year," Vitalo said. "They don't know what their future is.''

Even with Blavatt saying there are no big moves planned, the staff is still concerned, Vitalo said.

After all, keeping the environmental sciences program at the school is ultimately a School Board decision, he noted.

So how did this all start?

A few years ago, the School Board passed a redistricting plan that included a recommendation to move the environmental center to Winding Waters if space was available, Blavatt said.

But in August, he said, staff concluded there was no space available to move the theme program.

Enrollment exceeded expectations at Winding Waters.

"We cannot overcrowd a school and cause under-enrollment at another," Blavatt said in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, this year's enrollment at Floyd fell roughly 100 short of projections — more than any other school in the district.

The projected enrollment was roughly 1,130 students, according to a 10-day count. The middle school grades fell roughly 60 students short, where the actual enrollment was 282.

A big reason for the decrease is because the district has reduced busing options, Markford said.

School and district officials said the shortfall hasn't had an impact on the quality of education.

It does mean that some middle school classes have been condensed, and some teachers — including language arts and social studies — will now need to teach multiple grade levels in their subjects.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

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