Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Middle school open houses soothe nerves

Tyrone Middle School principal Stephanie Adkinson gives new sixth-graders and their parents a tour Thursday night. For the 252 incoming students, life as they know it will change on Aug. 25.


Tyrone Middle School principal Stephanie Adkinson gives new sixth-graders and their parents a tour Thursday night. For the 252 incoming students, life as they know it will change on Aug. 25.

ST. PETERSBURG — It was hard to tell Thursday who was more anxious during Tyrone Middle School's sixth-grade orientation.

Like their children, some parents wore worried expressions as they were ushered into the gym. With big, round eyes, students looked around for seats on the bleachers. Several girls folded their arms in front of them, and a few boys stuffed their hands in their pockets.

Getting lost and being tardy topped the list of worries. And students like Alexander Grafe, 11, said they were trying not to pay too much attention to rumors of bullying from older kids.

"I know most of them aren't true," he said.

His mom, Karen Grafe, 39, was the first to admit that she's just as apprehensive as her only child.

"There are a million hallways. Where are the classrooms and where are the lockers?" she asked.

Many middle schools in Pinellas County are offering sixth-graders and their parents orientations to help take the edge off the transition from elementary to middle school.

"The last thing you want to do is to overwhelm a child," said Stephanie Adkinson, Tyrone's principal.

District administrators hope the orientations will ease anxiety and dispel myths such as being shoved into lockers, said Stephanie Joyner, the district's middle school director.

It definitely helps students when they get to see the lockers, she said. "It gives them a chance to get a lay of the land, to see that middle school is okay," she said.

Each middle school will have an open house for students, but how they are structured and whether sixth-grade orientations are offered varies from school to school, Joyner said.

At Morgan Fitzgerald Middle in Largo, school administrators and teachers simulated what it's like being in middle school by dividing the orientations on Wednesday and Thursday into five "classes."

The sessions included a campus tour, talk about middle school social life by a panel of older students, and of course, lockers, said principal Bill Corbett.

Such sessions prepare students for being in a much larger school, Corbett said. Fitzgerald Middle projects an enrollment of 1,345 students this year, with 525 of them in sixth grade.

School officials at Tyrone Middle also offered a glimpse into how the lives of the 252 incoming sixth-graders would change in two weeks.

They will have to deal with seven teachers and classes and meet 25 to 30 new classmates in each. Tyrone is going on a block schedule where seven classes are divided into an eight-day rotation.

There will be no more portable classrooms at the school, and all students have to take PE.

They'll get new lockers — which students were advised not to visit during the four-minute passing time between classes.

"And pull your pants up and your shirts down," Cheri Ashwood, Tyrone Middle's sixth-grade guidance counselor, said to parental applause.

For some parents, the orientations induced memories of more stressful days.

Kevin Dort, whose daughter Maria will attend Fitzgerald, recalled how he struggled at first in middle school.

"When I went to school, I floundered for two to three weeks before I was comfortable changing classes and hallways," he said. "Having schools provide this well-attended event is an excellent tool for students to get used to this, so they can jump right in."

Principals Adkinson and Corbett also each offered some soothing words to parents.

"Give them a couple of days," Corbett said. "They're kids. They're resilient."

fast facts

Open houses

Sixth grade open houses are scheduled at these middle schools. Check with your school for times:

Tuesday: Clearwater Fundamental

Wednesday: Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor

Thursday: Carwise, Dunedin Highland, Meadowlawn

Saturday: John Hopkins

Aug. 24: Azalea, Bay Point, Fitzgerald, Lealman Intermediate, Largo, Oak Grove, Osceola, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Tarpon Springs, Thurgood Marshall.

Sept. 14: Clearwater Intermediate, Madeira Beach Fundamental.

Middle school open houses soothe nerves 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards


    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 


  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say


    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.