A new school year usually brings new initiatives, and 2013-14 is no exception in the Pasco County School District. Among some of the more notable changes:
High school seniors won't be required to complete senior projects, ending a decadelong annual assignment that had seniors conducting research and making presentations in their English classes. District officials suspended the projects while assessing whether a transition to the Common Core State Standards would incorporate many of the lessons into other courses.
Low student attendance rates will get increased scrutiny as the district convenes a committee to examine data and create an initiative to ensure students come to school regularly. District officials in the past administration targeted truancy in 2011 and the new administration has decided to take another look.
Antibullying efforts will continue to grow, with the district creating programs to deal with cyberbullying and encourage student leadership to combat the problem. The project will spin off a summer daylong workshop on the issue, and connect back to the School Board's springtime commitment to fight bullying as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
School media centers will have a new feel, as media and technology specialists are replaced with information communication technology coaches who are to help teachers incorporate research, media and technology into their lessons. Media assistants will continue to staff the libraries. The School Board approved this move to save nearly $5 million, while also rewriting a job description some administrators said had gone astray.
Several schools will have new start and end times, as the district made adjustments to save money in busing costs.
Students attending three elementary schools will get a change of scenery because of construction projects. Children at Schrader Elementary in Port Richey will head to portable classrooms as the district razes their old school in preparation to replace it. Kids attending Shady Hills Elementary and Quail Hollow Elementary in Wesley Chapel don't have that option. They'll head to other campuses — Shady Hills to Crews Lake Middle, and Quail Hollow to either Wesley Chapel Elementary or Watergrass Elementary — as crews renovate the insides of their schools. The projects are expected to last a couple of years.
Children with autism will have a new education choice as Pasco's sixth charter school, Florida Autism Center of Excellence, opens in Zephyrhills. The school will accept up to 38 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, with plans to grow over time. It's connected to a similar school in Tampa.
Employees will get added access to district health care clinic service, which began in 2011. The district will open an additional clinic in Hudson, and also launch a mobile health unit that will travel to district work sites.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek.